French 4250 – Medieval French Literature,

The power of accessories and clothing in the Cycle de Guillaume.”

 This course, an upper-division elective for majors, explores the function of clothing within fictional narratives, in particular in the Cycle de Guillaume, and it places fashion in context of other medieval texts. The students are expected to analyze and compare different accessories, e.g. the crown, the ring or the shield. They are also encouraged to notice if there is a relation between them such the crown versus swords, or the armor versus festive costumes. Often in our texts, the evocation of an ultimate power assessed to the object transforms the user. At this point we ask a series of questions: for example does the object give the transformed person access to authority and rights? Does carrying the wrong object or an inappropriate piece of clothing degrade whatever force the holder has acquired with previous accessories?  When a crown creates a King, does it also give him duties and responsibilities? At a certain point, the medieval authors began questioning the power the object has over characters themselves. That is, for example if the crown creates the king, what power does it have over the lineage? Present in the Knight Guillaume’s epics and each text of the Cycle, all the ingredients for these transformations challenge his status and toy with the identity quest. Students need to examine texts with different perspectives and interrogate how Christian and Celtic traditions interact and who or what grants the true selfhood.  


Ian Short. La chanson de Roland, Paris: Poche LGF, 1990.
Dominique Boutet. Le cycle de Guillaume d’orange, Paris: Poche LGF, 1996.
Collectif. Romans de Chrétien de Troyes, Paris: Poche LGF, 2005.
Kinoshita, Sharon, Medieval Boundaries: Rethinking Difference in Old French Literature, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press (The Middle Ages Series), 2006.
1) Françoise Piponnier, Se vêtir au Moyen Âge, Adam Biro: Paris,1995.
Corbellari, Alain, Guillaume d’Orange ou la naissance du héros médiéval, Paris: Klincksieck (Les grandes figures du Moyen Âge, 4), 2011.
2) Stewart Gordon, Robbes and honor: the medieval of investiture, New York: Palgrave, 2001.
Boutet, Dominique, « Chevalerie,  essai d’une définition sociale », Revue des langues romanes, 110:1, 2006, p. 35-56.
3) Bard, Norval L., « “C’est bien costume que soit pris chevaliers”: A Consideration of Captivity in the Guillaume Cycle », Olifant, 25:1-2, 2006, p. 111-122.
Gallé, Hélène, « Déguisements et dévoilements dans le Charroi de Nîmes et la Prise d’Orange », Les chansons de geste. Actes du XVIe congrès international de la Société Rencesvals pour l’étude des épopées romanes, Granada, 2003, éd. Carlos Alvar et Juan Paredes, Granada; Universidad de Granada, 2005, p. 245-278.
4) Black, Patricia E., « Transformation of the knight in the Moniage Guillaume », Olifant, 25:1-2, 2006, p. 133-140
Subrenat, Jean, « Moines mesquins et saint Chevalier. À propos du Moniage de Guillaume », Mélanges Jeanne Wathelet-Willem, éd. Jacques de Caluwé, Liège: Association des romanistes de l’Université de Liège, 1978, p. 643-665.

Course calendar

Week 1: Se vêtir au Moyen Age (extraits). Guillaume d’Orange ou la naissance du héros médiéval (extraits).
Week 2: la chanson de Roland.
Week 3: Le Couronnement de Louis, Cycle d’Orange
Week 4: 1st paper, La couronne et l’épée
Week 5: Chevalerie,  essai d’une définition sociale. Robbes and Honor (extraits).
Week 6: Yvain, le chevalier au Lion, Chrétien de Troyes
Week 7: Le charroi de Nîmes, cycle d’Orange
Week 8: 2nd paper, Guillaume avec et sans son habit
Week 9:  A consideration of captivity in the Guillaume CycleDéguisement et dévoilement.
Week 10: Cligès, Chrétien de Troyes.
Week 11: La prise d’Orange
Week 12: 3rd paper, un héros dans la romance.
Week 13: Transformation of the Knight. Moines mesquins et saints chevaliers.
Week 14: Le moniage
Week 15: 4th paper, interprétation critique du héro