Dr. Ruxandra Marinescu

Universitair docent
Afgesloten projecten
De kunst van de misleiding en de Franse lais in de 'Roman de Fauvel', handschrift Bibliotheque nationale de France, fonds français 146 01-09-2007 tot 31-08-2010
Algemene projectbeschrijving

The interpolated version of the French allegorical satire, the Roman de Fauvel, transmitted in manuscript Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fonds français 146 (produced in Paris ca. 1317), targets the corruption within the French royal court in the last years of the rule of King Philip IV of France (r. 1285–1314) and during the troubled succession that followed in 1315 and 1316. It does so by telling the story of the lustful and evil horse Fauvel, who becomes king of France at the will of Fortune. Its unique music collection received a prominent position in musicology for decades as the most important musical repertoire of early fourteenth-century France. However, the four French lais that this source contains have attracted scarce scholarly attention although they represent the only surviving examples from the early fourteenth century of this highly complex musical and poetic form. Previous scholarship considered these songs as nothing more than a transitional stage in the history of the lyric lai with music, which starts with the troubadours and the trouvères and culminates in the oeuvre of Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300–1377). Contrary to this view, this dissertation argues that the lais in the Roman de Fauvel not only are extremely sophisticated, but also play a fundamental role, previously unrecognized, in the design of the Roman de Fauvel.

Part One (chapters 1 and 2) examines the multi-layered relationships between the four lais as a group and the text, music, and images in Book II of the Roman de Fauvel. These chapters show how the lais appear at key moments in the plot. Of all four lais, the first and the last come across as the most impressive and intricate monophonic compositions in the entire manuscript. 

Part Two consists of three chapters designed as case studies. Chapter 3 interprets the key narrative section describing Fauvel and his excessively decorated palace. Fauvel’s palace is presented as a symbolic space displaying the triumph of deceit. Among the wall decorations, songs about fraud are notated with “false” (chromatically inflected) music. This textual detail is carefully realized in the first lai (Talant que j’ai d’obeir) discussed in chapter 4. Performed by Fauvel himself in his first attempt to impress Fortune to accept his marriage proposal, this composition is exceptional in the way it undermines Fauvel’s declaration of love by means of a pyrotechnical accumulation of textual and musical effects. Chapter 5 analyzes the final lai in the story, the Lay des Hellequines. This lai debates the merits of love and advocates temperance and loyalty. Challenging the earlier interpretation that this composition serves only as a lyric suspension in the plot, chapter 5 argues that the debate conceals an important political message directed to the newly crowned Philip V and his wife at the time when dynastic continuity was in grave danger. This view is supported by the unusual use of the lofty dodecasyllable (alexandrine), which was typical for didactic texts.


1e geldstroom OGC PhD International Scholarship