Aucassin et nicolette

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FR4033 The Middle Ages in France Student ID 07005855

‘Aucassin et Nicolette… is variously spoken of nowadays as parody, a satire, an “anti-roman”, but it is above all an entertainment pure and simple’ (J.Fox). Discuss this comment on Aucassin et Nicolette.

Nowadays, when we think of an entertaining, pure and simple story that contains significant touches of irony and providessome allusive imitations of established cultural practices or social norms, the first thing that comes to our mind might be a comedy movie or a good musical in the cinema. In 13th century, simple and enjoyable stories certainly could not have been screened but rather acted on stage. The best way to explain to a modern reader how genius and satirical, how pure and simple Aucassin et Nicolete wasfor its medieval audience is to do it by a comparison with the cinema. The most appreciated features of modern productions while watched in a movie theatre are camerawork, sound and the content. Sarah Kay in her article Genre, parody, and spectacle in Aucassin et Nicolette and other short comic tales points out that scenes in a tale are constructed as a spectacle, that descriptions and dialoguesare visually provoking and that even the main character Aucassin tends to think in pictures (2008: 170 – 173). Indeed, in his speech about the differences between the way men and woman love, he defines the female case with describing love as situated in eyes, nipples and toes. His vivid descriptions are not the only way he could contribute to a successful scenario. He would also made good actor byaltering his tone and shifting tempo of his speech when playing out the scene treating about the dilemma of an excitable young man who is trying to maintain a high rhetorical style of discourse, but whose imagination intrudes with its own lustful imperatives. It is also worth to mention that the work combines prose and verse therefore it is known as chantefable, and its original manuscript includesmusical notations. The plot of the story is constructed upon the fixed nature of its characters (Vance 1970: 39). Some of them represent stereotypical roles in the medieval society (resolute king of Beaucaire, poor shepherds) and the others are ironical and contradictory to well-established medieval models (passive lover Aucassin, childish and weak king of Torelore). In order to understandsatirical, ‘anti-roman’ dimension of the chantefable it is crucial to realize what it is parodic of. In the following paragraphs I shall explain the main features of the Aucassin et Nicolette that make it a parody, a pure and simple entertainment in the light of roman norms and conventions.
The irony used in Aucassin et Nicolette is, as in other medieval works (e.g. Chrétien de Troyes), a mean ofincreasing the proportion of intellectual analysis. In the analyzed story this effect was obtained by different techniques, one of the most significant ones is the use language. Eugene Vance argues that due to various incompatible literary styles juxtaposed in order to define the social differences between characters and make clearer generic differences between medieval literary conventions, theauthor’s primary goal in Aucassin et Nicolette was to create not a comedy of love, but comedy of language (1970: 39). Code-switching provides the reader with the effect of satire and exaggeration of the differences between higher and lower class. There are two main kinds of this practice found in the text: when a character use different registers in a monologue, for example in a form of a song orwhen dialoguing with the representatives of the other social class. One of the episodes underscoring the opposition between the mode of courtly discourse appropriate for aristocracy and more literal one, proper to the surrounding social world is the one when Nicolette encounters the shepherds in the forest and implores them to pass a message to Aucassin. The message is figurative and draws upon...
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