Logic and Humour in the Fabliaux

Logic and Humour in the Fabliaux

An Essay in Applied Narratology

Roy J. Pearcy


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A theoretically defensible inventory of the fabliaux based on a new structural definition.
Joseph Bédier's 1893 definition of the fabliaux as 'funny stories in verse' is still widely accepted as the best brief and general description for a heterogeneous collection of texts. But the heterogeneity creates difficulties and at the periphery of the canon all three of the criteria included in Bédier's definition are open to question. The inventory proposed in the current study is based on a new structural definition, a conjointure, akin to that of romance, combining a logical episteme with a rhetorical narreme. The episteme features a contradictory taken from Boolean algebra, and assumes four different forms, depending on whether ambiguity resulting from the contradictory is understood by neither, by both, or by either the sender or the receiver of a message, In the first two instances, a character foreign to the episteme intervenes to resolve confusion in the narreme, or appears as the victim of the sophistical assumption of a contrary-to-fact reality; in the latter instances the sender or the receiver of the message in the episteme triumphs in the narreme. The resulting inventory, including and augmenting the texts admitted by Per Nykrog and discarding numerous stories already challenged for authenticity, is theoretically defensible to a degree not previously achieved.

ROY PEARCY is an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of London.

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October 2007
10 line illustrations
260 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843841227
Format: Hardback
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Table of Contents

Origins: Fable to fabliau. Cele qui se fist foutre sur la Fosse de son Mari
Outline of a Methodology [I]: The Logical Contradictories
Outline of a Methodology [II]: Episteme and Narreme
Origins: Fabliau to fable. The Paris B.N. fr. 12603 version of Auberee
The Fabliau canon
Fabliau structures [I]: Single narreme fabliaux
Fabliau structures [II]: Multiple narreme fabliaux
Fabliau aesthetic
Fabliau inventory


Impressive and thorough [...] an invigorating and thought-provoking contribution to a long-standing debate, which has the further virtue of detailed analyses of a broad range of narratives and fortuitously includes a number of Anglo-Norman texts which have hitherto been largely neglected. As such it is definitely worthy of the attention of any scholar with an interest in the genre. MEDIUM AEVUM
This book's accomplishments are more numerous than its stated aim. [.] The insights Pearcy offers into the fabliau genre are invaluable for those studying this body of literature. Indeed, the connections Pearcy forges between logic and humour in the fabliau are momentous, particularly for future scholarly considerations of these stories. SPECULUM

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