Madness in Medieval French Literature: Identities Found and Lost

Hardcover | October 16, 2003

bySylvia Huot

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Madness is a frequent theme in medieval French literature. It afflicts the two greatest heroes of the Arthurian world, Lancelot and Tristan, as well as numerous other knights and unlucky lovers in courtly tradition. It also appears in devotional literature, whether in the form of the 'holyfool' who impersonates madness as a kind of penance or in the motif of lunatics cured through the miraculous intervention of a saint. These texts manifest a wide range of attitudes towards madness, which may be associated with nobility and refinement of character, with chivalric or spiritualtranscendence, with tragic illness and impairment, with comic ineptitude, or with sin and degradation. Tracing these various depictions allows for a study of how and why madness is used in different texts and different genres. This new book, from one of the leading critics in medieval studies, ties in with contemporary interest in the politics of identity, and literary constructions of identity. There are many studies of gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, and class in medieval literature and society, but far fewer ofmadness. Yet madness is the ultimate 'queerness' or 'otherness', the limit of the human condition. Madness has been identified as an important topic in feminist criticism, but has been explored largely with regard to nineteenth- and twentieth-century studies. The cultural significance of madness inthe Middle Ages is often misrepresented in contemporary discussions. Sylvia Huot redresses that imbalance.

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Madness is a frequent theme in medieval French literature. It afflicts the two greatest heroes of the Arthurian world, Lancelot and Tristan, as well as numerous other knights and unlucky lovers in courtly tradition. It also appears in devotional literature, whether in the form of the 'holyfool' who impersonates madness as a kind of pen...

Sylvia Huot is Reader in Medieval French Literature at Pembroke College, Cambridge. She has held teaching positions at University of Chicago and Northern Illinois University and is a leading scholar of French Medieval literature. Her publications include From Song to Book: The Poetics of Writing in Old French Lyric and Lyrical Narrati...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:232 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.72 inPublished:October 16, 2003Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199252122

ISBN - 13:9780199252121

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Abject insanity, madness sublime2. The specular madman3. Madness and social exclusion4. Heterosexuality and its discontents5. The living dead6. Madness and the bodyConclusionBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

`In its attnetion to the gendered forms of madness, particularly in debates about love, it offers a new understanding of gendered identities. And in its clear and effective use of Lacanian theory to elucidate the workings of medieval texts, it is also a crucial contribution to the growingcritical literature on psychoanalysis and medieval literature.'Notes and Queries