Orality and Performance in Early French Romance

December 1998
328 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9780859915380
Format: Hardback
BISAC LIT014000, LIT004150

Orality and Performance in Early French Romance

Evelyn Birge Vitz

Discussion of the importance of oral and performance traditions in the history of early Frence romance.
This book proposes a fundamental revision of the history of early French romance, arguing that oral and performed traditions were far more important in the development of romance than scholars have recognised. It begins by dealing with issues of orality and literacy, and argues that the form in which romances were composed was not the invention of clerics but was, rather, an oral form. It shows how early versions of the Tristan story, by Béroul, Thomas and Marie de France, express the complex interplay between oral and written traditions, then goes on to focus in greater depth on Benoît de Sainte-Maure, Chrétien and the anonymous author of the Roman de Thèbes. The second part of the book looks at performance, showing that romances such as those of Chrétien invited voiced presentation; moreover, they were frequently recitd from memory, sung, and acted out in "dramatic" fashion. Romances can, and should, still be performed today.

EVELYN BIRGE VITZ is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at New York University.


An invitation to reintroduce the excitement of the human voice in our reading of medieval romances, and to respond to them creatively. As such it is to be welcomed. NOTES AND QUERIES [Francoise le Saux]

A book that needed to be written, on questions that needed a fresh examination. In short, it is a study that all medievalists should know. SPECULUM [Norris J. Lacy]

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