Sacred Fictions of Medieval France

Sacred Fictions of Medieval France

Narrative Theology in the Lives of Christ and the Virgin, 1150-1500

Maureen Barry McCann Boulton





A study of the immensely popular "lives" of Christ and the Virgin in medieval France.
The story of the life of Christ and his mother was told in many texts in various French vernaculars (Anglo-Norman and Old Occitan, as well as Old and Middle French) between the middle of the twelfth century and the end of the fifteenth; there are more than a hundred such texts, extant in at least 400 manuscripts. These "sacred fictions" are the subject of this book. Given that the principal events in the lives of Mary and Jesus were well known to potential audiences, the choice of genre was the most important decision facing a medieval author. The writers of these works made deliberate formal choices which their audiences recognized and which provided one frame of reference for reading them. Professor Boulton here classifies the different lives of Mary and Jesus according to the various narrative forms they take: epic, romance, allegory, chronicle, and meditative text. In addition, because a text's embodiment in its codex reflects how it was encountered by medieval readers, each chapter considers the transmission of the texts, as well as their often radical alteration in different manuscripts when they survive in multiple copies.

Maureen Boulton is Professor of French at the University of Notre Dame.


July 2015
394 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843844143
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
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Table of Contents

Sacred Romances: Genealogy, Lineage and Cyclicity
Sacred Epic and the Diffusion of Anti-Jewish Sentiment
Sacred Allegory and Meditation
Sacred Histories: The Chronicles of Jean d'Outremeuse and Jean Mansel
Sacred Imaginations: Lives of Christ and the Virgin in Texts of Affective Devotion
Epilogue: Lives and Afterlives
Appendix: Lists of Manuscripts by Chapter


Boulton has given scholars and students of medieval literature and devotional culture an extremely useful and readable guidebook for further exploration in the field of medieval religious literature. Her book certainly strikes a pleasing balance between sketching out several compelling trajectories taken by groups of sacred biographers and giving readers a sense of the attraction, charm, and subtlety of specific texts. MEDIEVAL REVIEW

Author Bio

Professor of French, Department of Romance Languages & Literatures, University of Notre Dame

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