The Cent nouvelles nouvelles, text and context: literature and history at the court of Burgundy in the fifteenth century

de Blieck, Edgar (2004) The Cent nouvelles nouvelles, text and context: literature and history at the court of Burgundy in the fifteenth century. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of scanned version of the original print thesis. Two volumes in one PDF] PDF (scanned version of the original print thesis. Two volumes in one PDF)
Download (38MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


The Cent nouvelles nouvelles, Text and Context: Literature and history at the court of Burgundy in the fifteenth century. The following study of history through literature uses a French text composed by and for the court of Burgundy in the mid fifteenth century: the Cent nouvelles nouvelles. It demonstrates that philological interpretation of the text has floundered when it has ignored the historical context in which the work was composed. Alongside this critique, the thesis comes to the positive conclusion that it is valuable to restore an appreciation of the benefits of historical scholarship to the discipline of philology. In the first chapter, the case is made for reclaiming the text as a historical document on the basis of its context. Recent studies, which have insisted that the historical context of the work is unimportant, are examined critically, to establish the need for a historical reappraisal of the text, beginning where the pioneer archiviste-palaeographe Pierre Champion left off. In the second chapter, we see that both the traditional and more recent assumptions about the text, its authorship, date, and place in the canon of western European literature have to be reassessed. Through close study of manuscript and printed text, the textual tradition is asserted, and the Cent nouvelles nouvelles is restored to its historical milieu. Antecedents and analogue texts are examined in the context of the moral vision of the work as one which is similar to the Decameron's, though it involves an unrecorded deliberative process, which allows it to be considered as more of an aesthetic unity than philologists have recognised. The question of the Nouvelles' relationship to the contemporary literary context is examined in detail, particularly through an analysis of the issues of fashions in literary style, and the interplay of courtly with popular culture. This section is partly based on archival work. The third chapter, which is heavily based on chronicles and unpublished archival material, moves from the world to the text, to consider the men who made the text, and for whom the text was made. The immediate political context in which the work was conceived is shown to have a bearing on its form, and the raconteurs are replaced in their courtly milieu. We see that they were the closest to the duke, serving him in his household, his political network, his armies, his ideological aspirations, and his diplomacy. The network of sociability which underpinned the text made the Cent nouvelles nouvelles what it is: a Burgundian work from a particular time and place. Lastly, this chapter considers the raconteurs' contributions to the collection as extensions of their personalities, and as extensions of their careers of service, giving two particular examples in detail. The fourth chapter moves from the text to the world using the literature to throw light on the circumstances under which it was created. A sequence of individual stories (Nouvelles 2, 19, 53, 60, 63, 78, 83) are examined in their historical context, and explained in terms of the meaning they had when they were first recounted. The raconteurs' historical backgrounds, established in the previous chapter, prove invaluable in unlocking the particular significance of motifs, plots and jokes in the stories. We also see that philological appraisals which lack historical awareness are unable to appreciate the texts on their own terms. Nouvelles which have a basis in historical fact are considered alongside those which form part of a longstanding textual tradition. Both sorts of texts are shown to have a Burgundian specificity - a historical accent. The fifth chapter argues, on the basis of what has preceded it, that the method of restoring literary texts to a historical milieu is universal, even though not all texts may be as susceptible to such detailed analysis which was brought to bear on the Cent nouvelles nouvelles. It is contended that the evidential value of literature as historical document is more specific than it is general. Moreover, it is vital to ascertain what the literary text is most informative about, as well as what its limitations are as historical evidence. We see how postmodern ideas have taken root in philological theory. Cutting against postmodern theories about textuality and evidence, which have insisted that the historical context of the work is not merely unimportani but that it is irrelevant and unascertainahle, the conclusion argues for a return to the practice of setting texts in context. Appendix 1 deals with the codicology of MS Hunter 252, and compares the Verard text. Appendix 2 presents transcriptions of Nouvelle 63 from the manuscript, and two early printed versions. Appendix 3 demonstrates Verard's reuse of the woodcuts with which he decorated the Cent nouvelles nouvelles and emphasises that the commercial nature of his business impacted on aesthetic concerns. Appendix 4 deals with the question of the raconteurs that are difficult to identify, particularly the lords of Beauvoir and Villiers, and Caron.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Small, Dr. Graeme
Date of Award: 2004
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2004-40983
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2019 15:01
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2022 12:26
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.40983

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year