The evolution of the Lyric Insertion in Thirteenth-Century Narrative

The evolution of the Lyric Insertion in Thirteenth-Century Narrative

Callahan, Christopher

Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 7 (1990)


The early thirteenth century witnessed the appearance, with Jean Renart’s Roman de la Rose, also known as the Roman de Guillaume de Dole, of a new, hybrid discourse, that of narrative verse interspersed with lyric passages. This device was extremely  popular; Renart’s Rose had more than seventy imitators, and lyrico-narrative discourse flourished until the early fifteenth century, enjoying its apogee in the works of Guillaume de Machaut and Jean Froissart. High courtly lyric, the expression of the first literate generation of aristocratic poets, had flourished for over a century, and its appropriation in the 1220′s by narrative signals an important milestone in the evolution of both lyric and narrative.

Narrative is largely a product of non-courtly, clerkly writers, and the forging of a complex, new poetics at the hands of those writers in thirteenth-century France was made possible by the flourishing of a money economy and the passing of true economic power into the hands of the burgeoning middle class.

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