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Madness in Medieval French LiteratureIdentities Found and Lost$
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Sylvia Huot

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780199252121

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199252121.001.0001

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Abject Insanity, Madness Sublime

Abject Insanity, Madness Sublime

(p.9) 1 Abject Insanity, Madness Sublime
Madness in Medieval French Literature

Sylvia Huot (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the ways that medieval texts negotiate the line distinguishing madness from greatness, which may take the form of heroism or sanctity. The anxiety associated with the distinction between the saint and the lunatic is evident both in tales of ‘holy fools’ and in stories of genuine mad people whose trajectory offers a parody or failure of sainthood. Arnold of Villanova and Jean Gerson are cited in setting the cultural context. Examples include the tale ‘Fou’ from the Vie des pères, Robert le Diable, and the Miracles de St. Louis. In the secular realm, madness often afflicts the heroes of chivalric romance, and is linked to their capacity for passionate love and reckless military exploits; the principal examples here are Chrétien de Troyes’s Chevalier au lion (Yvain) and the anonymous Amadas et Ydoine.

Keywords:   Arnold of Villanova, Jean Gerson, holy fool, Miracles de St. Louis, Vie des pères, Robert le Diable, Chrétien de Troyes, Chevalier au lion, Yvain, Amadas et Ydoine

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