Floire and Blancheflor and the European Romance (Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature)

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With the rediscovery of the fourteenth-century Spanish chronicleversion of Flores y Blancaflor, many of our assumptions and conclusions about the provenance of the European versions must be revised. Paris was convinced that the two French tales, the aristocratic and the popular, represented only part of the history of the story's origins.

Some features found in the anonymous Italian Cantare di Fiorio e Biancifiore, Boccaccio's Filocolo, the sixteenth-century Spanish Historia de los dos enamorados Flores y Blancaflor, and references in Spanish literature that do not correspond faithfully either to the French popular or aristocratic poems suggested to Paris that there must have been a version known in early Spain that differed from the above-mentioned French ones, hence an Italo-Spanish As with any kind of broad categorization, there is a risk of overgeneralization in claiming for Floire and Blancheflor a generic diversification that does not mark the Tristan legend.

But my point becomes clear, I think, when we consider the character of the image projected by the lovers. Tristan and Isolde were always portrayed as models of secular love, while this is not the case with Floire and Blancheflor. As we will see in the Epilogue, "Poetics of Continuation," the lovers are models of secular love and, at times, pious models of Christian love; beyond that, we need think only of the tonal difference between the lovers in the French aristocratic version and the Old Norse, for example, to realize that the main story remains the same but the context and circumstances of the lovers' story do not.

Introduction version or "third strain. Part One, then, is a traditional, historical approach to the study of the legend.

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It makes its contribution to the ongoing process of classifying the web of manuscripts that tell the lovers' tale and, more importantly, it sets the scene for the subsequent chapters. Throughout the study, the findings - and the continuing questions - presented in the first part in the chapter on "Texts and Origins" are recalled, as we compare the works and suggest areas of common sources in an effort to determine provenance, to note subtle differences and surprising concurrences that help to distinguish the links in the European chain of texts.

Part Two, consisting of four chapters, is entitled "The Road to Conversion. Added to the episodes of love-pilgrimage are an emphasis on the more traditional view of pilgrimage as a religious journey, and on episodes of religious conversion found in, especially, the Spanish Chronicle, Boccaccio's Filocolo and the Old Norse Flores saga ok Blankiflur. And if, to borrow Freccero's comment on Augustine's Confessions, "conversion is always a literary event, a gloss on an anterior text" "The Fig Tree and the Laurel" 36 , then the versions of Floire and Blancheflor represent such a literary event, for the love story concerns itself with multifarious aspects of conversion, both thematic and textual, in its individual literary experimentalism and as part of a European chain of texts.

In my analyses of the versions of Floire and Blancheflor, I consider pilgrimage and conversion both as themes in certain texts - as part of the plot - and as tropes. Willis ] , but it was, in particular, the short description of the story of Flores and Blancaflor in the early fourteenthcentury Gran conquista de Ultramar that caused him to postulate the third strain of Floire and Blancheflor. Introduction versions change and adapt earlier material in a way that makes the texts seem to be converts themselves, formerly concerned only with amatory matters and the personal gratification of two lovers and now concerned with how those lovers and their story fit into a Christian providential scheme.

Those who caused the conversion of some of the texts - that is, the translators and refashioners of the legend of Floire and Blancheflor are also readers: readers of at least one version of the romance from which they then sculpted their own, new, modified or faithful version of the text. When we, as critics, insist on analyzing a work by selecting the features that we have declared to pertain to a particular genre, are we not perhaps neglecting important features that held meaning for the author and historical audience?

In his study on medieval literature and genre theory, Hans Robert Jauss advocates the recognition of a generic dominant in works such as romance or hagiography rather than the determination of rigid rules that cling to the outmoded notion of pure genres as standards or models of excellence: If in place of the naturalistic concept of genre [ The new text evokes for the reader listener the horizon of expectations and "rules of the game" familiar to him from earlier texts, which as such can then be varied, corrected, but also transformed, crossed out, or simply reproduced.

Floire and Blancbeflor, in all its versions, is a tale that lends itself to transformation - to telling and retelling, to refashioning, to generic flexibility. Another goal is to discover why the chronicle-version of the love story remains such a captivating story which cannot necessarily be said for all the other versions.

What enables this text to engage the Introduction modern reader? What does this text contain that so successfully mediates between the past and the "horizon of expectations" of a twentieth-century reader? Floire and Blancheflor is the ideal medieval tale, from my point of view, in that it opens up many avenues of exploration. It must have been an ideal tale to the medieval writer, who, as literary critics are becoming increasingly aware, was not as paralyzed and transfixed as the contemporary critic by boundaries of genre. In its own European peregrinatio, the story emphasized, depending on the translator or refashioner, the country and the time period, exactly what the situation called for: romance, chronicle, hagiography, epic.

Floire and Blancheflor functions as a kaleidoscope of medieval narrative: one easily sees the main currents of medieval forms in the varying versions, but, as in a kaleidoscope, they achieve prominence in different ways. The legend of Floire and Blancheflor provides us, I believe, with a unique opportunity to determine, both synchronically and diachronically, the horizon of expectations inherent in this work's generic dominant, the romance, by comparing the European versions from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries against each other and against the canon of romances for those periods.

The simple fact of the multiple reworkings of the tale tells us something about how these texts were read. We are already well aware of the concept of medieval originality, that contest between poet, language and pre-existing literary traditions. The differences between the Old French and Middle English versions of Floire and Blancheflor may attest to a poetic bid for superiority by the later poet s , or to social, moral, ethical or historical intentions.

Rather than limit the discussion to features, or elements, that belong to a particular genre as twentieth-century critics have codified it , such as romance or hagiography, I have isolated topics that seem to me important because they may be prominent in one text and then modified, or even eliminated, in another country's version: the story constantly undergoes recontextualization. One example is Boccaccio's transformation of the episode of the poisoned fowl, allegedly prepared for the King by Blancheflor, into a political transformation of the chivalric "vows of the peacock.

Introduction Another example is the Spanish chronicler's treatment of the encounter between the Christian prisoner pregnant with Blancaflor and the pagan Queen pregnant with Flores. The historical context of the Spanish text finds one aspect of its uniqueness in the simple fact that battling with the Moors could not be portrayed as anything but a confrontation with the present: hence the historical immediacy and realistic detail of the chronicle-version, unparalleled in any other version.

Sentimental and Humorous Romances: Bibliography

When Blancaflor's mother meets the Moorish Queen, the narrator includes the detail that Berta and the Queen instinctively understood each other even though their languages differed: "E auien grandt sabor vna de otra. La condessa Berta fablaua franges e la rreyna algarauia e vna a otra se mostrauan su lenguaje" f.


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Countess Berta spoke French and the Queen Arabic, and they taught each other their language. It tells us something, too, about the chronicler's view of his role and his text: such details attest to the quest for veracity, for historicity, for realistic truth instead of a simple moral truth through an exemplary story.

Along the same lines, but in a more subtle way, the refashioners of Floire and Blancbeflor make distinctions even while employing the same details; we must be aware of tonal changes, of emphasis indeed, of differing interpretations of the same word.

Floire and Blancheflor and the European romance /

Instead of seeing endless repetition in our many versions of the tale, we need to be attuned to the distinguishing features that become obvious only after careful reading of the texts, and often only after the texts are read in a comparative manner. Certainly this approach is not unique to a study of Floire and Blancheflor; for example, Leclercq's findings on Gregory the Great's recognition and development of patterns of pilgrimage, that resulted in a vocabulary of religious experience for later writers, could apply just as efficaciously to the approach I suggest for Floire and Blancheflor.

The present study is, in many ways, a charting of the shifting nuances of the tale of Floire and Blancheflor, nuances that rejuvenate the story as it passes from country to country and century to century. As a standard of measure we can use the concept of engin, its presence in the texts and how it affects and interacts with the presence of a Supreme Being. Chapter Three, "Signs, Wonders and the Telling of the Tale," explores the narrative strategies at play in the texts that reveal an awareness and treatment of the acts of reading, writing, narrating and storytelling, on the part of both the author and the characters.

Some of the narrative strategies that help to define the texture of the works include inscribed texts - references within the work to other texts and what I term implied texts, that is, those texts, oral tales and narrative images with iconographic dimensions that are not necessarily overtly evoked: some of the images in Floire and Blancbeflor resemble images in literature and the visual arts which were popular enough to have occurred to readers and listeners of the tale.

Kolve, Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative. An implied text, for example, would be the use of the sea as the preferred means of travel in all the versions of Floire and Blancheflor. Apart from the sea voyage and the shipwreck as conventions of medieval literature, Floire and Blancheflor adds another dimension: inscribed as the Mediterranean versions are within the larger context of pilgrimage literature, the reader or listener would not fail to make Introduction the metaphorical equation between Saint James the Apostle - Santiago de Compostela - set adrift in a boat and Floire's own sea journeys that represent both a pilgrimage and a road to conversion.

Boccaccio complicates and enriches the sea motif by mingling both Christian and pagan iconography: Venus, who is responsible for much of the activity in the work, is linked with the sea; yet, at one point in the story, Filocolo beholds a vision of maidens on the sea that is clearly meant to evoke the extremely popular iconographic image of the Ship of the Church. Another example - the Emir's garden - is one of the most richly orchestrated images, infused as it is with both pagan and Christian elements. While this is one of the more widely discussed images of the tale, with its multivalent significance, it is important for this chapter because it conjures up for the reader or listener a variety of implied texts.

This section demonstrates that literary and iconographic subtexts pervade all the versions, albeit in different ways and to different degrees. The first, "Moral Geography and Spiritual Redemption," examines how geography exhibits a moral dimension and parallels the road to spiritual redemption.

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Within this section, I examine the question of journey, the use of the garden within the larger time-frame of the Lenten season, and the concept of genealogy, both within the story and as a means of textual lineage. Crdnica de Flores y Blancaflor is indeed a chronicle. Although it retains much of the flavor and details of the love story, it is nonetheless a strongly moralizing text, a history of how Christianity came to southern Spain with the help of Saint Augustine and sundry miracles.

Ostensibly a moralizing tale of Christian history, it is actually a work that posits the power of writing and the power of a good story over less organized means of communication, and the instability and chance happenings that this power can generate. In this section, as in the other parts of the book, I am most interested in the development of the various topics as it affects the Spanish Chronicle, Crdnica de Flores y Blancaflor, and Boccaccio's Filocolo. While the study is not limited to these two works, it becomes clear as the chapters progress that these two versions of the tale of Floire and Blancheflor offer the most intricate and complex problems to address, not the least of which is their relationship to each other.

The epilogue examines the notion of continuation in various forms: sequels, the example of which is the incorporation of the legend of Flores y Blancaflor into the Charlemagne cycle in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the gradual erosion of this relationship between legend and cycle so that it is completely forgotten by the time of the printing of the sixteenth-century texts which gave rise to French and English translations well into the nineteenth century; and, through a sampling of works from the Middle Ages to Romanticism, it demonstrates the widespread influence of the tale of Floire and Blancheflor, as model lovers and as narrative model.

This study, then, has several goals.

Floire and Blancheflor is the story of multiple pilgrimages - of religious devotion, of love - and of conversion. The texts themselves, in their winding route through Europe, are pilgrims of sorts, and they certainly undergo conversion, albeit forced by their reworkers and translators. Once faced with conversion, however, the texts show themselves to be willing - and able - converts to their conquerors' will by virtue of the protean nature of the texts' components.

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While examining the historical overview of Floire and Blancheflor criticism and introducing new criteria for consideration, exploring thematic concerns from the European versions, and discussing how the same story can engage the horizon of expectations of varying genres, this study seeks at the same time to suggest how each version was received by its public; that is to say, what changes were made from text to text and what the public would have noticed about the story that may not be what we notice when we concentrate solely on genre.

More often than not, the romance of Floire and Blancheflor was Christianized, engendering a somewhat secular hagiography. As mentioned before - and the recent work of Jauss, Minnis, Brewer, Fewster and Davidoff, to name just a few, exemplifies our increasing aware11 Introduction ness of this - medieval authors quite obviously experimented with the fluid nature of categories of writing, and successfully so, for their intention was not necessarily to join a generic classification, but to forge varying mixtures of textual styles in order to elucidate a poetic, historical or spiritual truth.

Floire and Blancheflor is unique in many ways, one of which is the fusion of a love story with the concepts of communitas and the individual Christian soul. It is a story, which in its French and Middle English versions celebrates pure poetic creation, while in the Mediterranean versions we see transformations in the service of a Christian truth.

It is a story which, in most versions, reveals God's grandeur and the power of Christianity. But along the way, and not incidentally, the authors, translators and redactors created compelling stories of delightful entertainment, tales to be told and retold with great pleasure from country to country and throughout the centuries. A word about procedure: in referring to the characters in general, I use the Library of Congress subject classification "Floire and Blancheflor.

The names of the characters from the different versions appear as they do in each story. An appendix B at the end of the study lists the European versions and the characters' names.