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From Mane to Tail: Representations of the Lion in Old French Literature
Shannon Nicole Mikell
Tulane University, 2002

PhD dissertation at Tulane University.

"This dissertation examines representations of the lion in Old French literature by focusing on four literary discourses in which the 'king of beasts' reigns supreme: religious, socio-political, chivalric and courtly. The first chapter examines two influential sources of medieval animal lore: the Bible and the bestiaries. In the second chapter, lions in the hagiographic tradition are examined. In these texts, lions are non-carnivorous, a trait shared with the holy men and women they encounter. In depriving the lion of one of its most fundamental identities, that of predator, these texts transform its character into a more symbiotic relationship with saints. The third chapter, deals with 'beast literature' - specifically, fables and the 'beast epic.' In these genres, the lion has evolved into a human in a lion's skin. Indeed, it is the anthropomorphized lion-figure which suffers the greatest at the hands of its authorial creators. The more medieval authors shape the lion in man's image, twisting the animal into a 'manimal,' the more violent the affronts on its bestiality and its very body. In the last two chapters, the notion of 'motif transfer' as it applies to the lion in Old French romances will be studied, notably in Yvain and Floire et Blancheflor. Yvain provides the motif of a lion fighting a serpent, which is consequently reconfigured in the Queste del Saint Graal and other texts. While Chrétien takes pains to subvert any religious implications in his representation of the scene, the author of the Queste deliberately emphasizes the religious symbolism of the two animals. Whereas the progression from Yvain to the Queste is from secular to ecclesiastical, the motif transfer that occurs within the surviving manuscript versions of Floire et Blancheflor is from Biblical to profane. The Old Testament story of Daniel provides the original motif that is recycled in the young pagan lover's humorous encounter with two lions. The motifs in these chapters are changed and subverted, a process which embodies the medieval concept of authorship, a pairing of imitatio and inventio." - abstract

252 p.


ISBN: 0-493-60593-2; PQDD: AAT3046654
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