GENDER AND AUTHORITY IN THE MEDIEVAL FRENCH LAI
Forum for Modern Language Studies, Vol.35 (1999)
THE TWELVE LAIS in the manuscript Harley 978 in the British Library have traditionally been attributed to a twelfth-century author by the name of “Marie de France”, a name coined in the 16th century to designate the author of the Fables, and later the person responsible for L’Espurgatoire saint Patrice, as well as the twelve Harley lais. This act of attribution relies on the appearance of the word “marie” in the third line of Guigemar, the first lai in the collection.3 This word only appears in this spelling in the Harley manuscript: the only other surviving version of the prologue to Guigemar, in MSP, gives the reading “mark”.4 The authorial claim of “Marie de France” would thus balance precariously upon the editorial choice between a vowel and a consonant, were it not for a mention of a “dame Marie” in another Medieval French text, Denis Piramus’ La Vie Seint Edmund le ret.5 This “Marie” is portrayed as responsible for an unspecified number of “vers de lais” (1. 37), popular, despite the fact that they are “pas del tut verais” (1. 38), with a large audience of both men (1. 42) and women (1.46).