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Marie de France's Poetics of Silence: The Implications for a Feminine Translatio

Michelle A. Freeman
PMLA
Vol. 99, No. 5 (Oct., 1984), pp. 860-883
DOI: 10.2307/462141
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462141
Page Count: 24
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Marie de France's Poetics of Silence: The Implications for a Feminine Translatio
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Abstract

The Prologue to the twelfth-century collection of French narrative poems called the Lais presents a woman poet, now known as Marie de France, who appears to be preoccupied with the significance of origins and who takes a bold initiative while remaining elusive about the exact nature of her enterprise. A close reading of two of these tales-Laüstic and Chievrefoil-helps clarify the problematics of Marie's portrayal by showing that it rests on a deliberate poetics of silence. The poet-narrator stresses not what is heroic, public, and patriarchal; rather, she creates an alternative type of lineage rooted in silence, secrecy, and, above all, in a private exchange between two who love. The gradual revelation of the sign and its meaning, achieved by successive attempts to gloser la lettre, are intimately connected both to Marie's text and to her poetic persona: to gloss the one is to name the other.

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