The Wedding Reception: Rewriting the Ideological Challenge in the prose Cligès (1454)
By Rebecca Dixon
Cahiers de recherches médiévales et humanistes, Vol.14 (2007)
Introduction: Central to the literary output of the mid-fifteenth-century Burgundian court under Philip the Good was the phenomenon of the mise en prose, a process involving the rewriting of earlier source-texts, always Francophone and generally verse, in more legible Middle French prose for the duke and his intimates.
Achieving this legibility depended not simply on a remanieur’s ability to translate (« translatter ») the retrograde and incomprehensible language of his source, but also on the extent to which he was able appropriately to rework the verse avatar for consumption at court, to « transmuer de rime en prose » the earlier text in ways which made it acceptable to a new audience. The production of a mise en prose becomes both a textual and a meta-textual interpretative exercise, a programme of intralingual translation persuasively glossed by Jane Taylor as acculturation : « a process whereby the socio-culturally unfamiliar is recast in familiar terms, so that the reader can understand systems and phenomena in a source text corresponding to his own ideologies, preconceptions and behaviour-patterns ».
As Taylor suggests, sometimes these « systems and phenomena » involve features in the source-text which would prove locally confusing to an unattuned Burgundian readership ; often, though, the « unfamiliar » and unpalatable aspect of the avatar lies in its presentation of an alterity that is morally, rather than straightforwardly culturally, troubling. Ideological challenges are thrown down for the remanieur by his source ; and his task inheres in developing strategies to contain and contend with these challenges in his reworking.