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At play in the fields and playing the field: the debat amoureux in the pastourelle and the Heptameron.

At the centre of the traditional medieval pastourelle is a debat amoureux, a spirited and sometimes contentious conversation between a shepherdess and her would-be suitor. The debat amoureux, in an expanded and more complex form, features prominently in Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron, both in the novellas themselves and in the frame story that surrounds them. Although the pastourelle's influence on the Heptameron has never been described, it is clear that the collection of novellas by the Queen of Navarre inherited substantially from these narrative medieval poems.

That Marguerite de Navarre borrowed from medieval fabliaux in writing her Heptameron has long been observed. (1) However, echoes of another medieval tradition in the Heptameron, that of the pastourelle, have not been recognized. This essay will explore the ways in which the pastourelle, a narrative poem with a bucolic setting, is a precursor of the Heptameron, informing the sixteenth-century collection of novellas both in form and in content. The most dominant feature of the pastourelle that reappears in the Heptameron is the debat amoureux, the battle of the sexes played out in dialogic form. That battle crosses class lines in both the pastourelle and the Heptameron, and it can turn violent when rape is threatened or committed. But we will see that dialogue has the effect of mitigating differences in social class in these texts, and plays a crucial role in preventing rape. Finally, we will examine the narrative function of the pastourelle, and the ways in which it foreshadows the storytelling of the novella, especially in the Heptameron of Marguerite de Navarre.

The medieval pastourelle is the poetic account of an amorous encounter between a chevalier and a shepherdess. In its classic form, it is a tale of seduction. A man, typically assumed to be a knight, recounts to his audience his chance encounter with a shepherdess in a pastoral setting. A dialogue between the two ensues, in which he attempts to seduce her. He begins by flattering the young lady, and if that fails he becomes more direct, bolder in his efforts. He is likely to offer her a 'gift' in exchange for her favours. If the knight's charming words and his bribe fail to win over the shepherdess, he might leave her, disappointed, or he might take her by force, raping her. Marcabru introduced the pastourelle in French in the middle of the twelfth century. The genre became exceedingly popular during the thirteenth century, but afterward it declined sharply. (2) During the fourteenth century, Jean Froissart introduced a new sort of pastourelle. Shepherds are the main characters of his short poetic tales, which retain the bucolic setting and the random encounter of the early pastourelles, but the poems are no longer stories of the seduction of a country girl at the hands of a courtier. (3) The genre subsequently faded from the literary limelight.

Although the pastourelle in its traditional form had disappeared from French literature by the sixteenth century, the genre echoes throughout Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron (1559), a collection of novellas that are, by and large, tales of romantic encounters. There are a number of striking similarities between the pastourelle and the Heptameron, most notably the debat amoureux, the lively verbal exchange which is at the centre of the pastourelle, and which constitutes the frame and framework of the Heptameron.

The debat amoureux is an attempted seduction in the form of a verbal duel between a man and a woman who are more or less equally 'well armed'. It is at the core of the pastourelle, and it pervades the Heptameron. These provocative exchanges are evident not only in the Heptameron's novellas, where the characters in the tales hint at love, coyly deny it, ardently declare it, and expound upon it at length, but also in the frame story where the devisants discuss and debate love and lovers. The Queen of Navarre brings to the debat amoureux a striking balance between masculine and feminine points of view, without according the dominant voice to either side. Thus, in her Heptameron, Marguerite de Navarre carries on and enriches the dialogic tradition of the pastourelle.

Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron, a collection of seventy-two novellas, was composed more than 300 years after the heyday of the pastourelle. Sixtyfour of the stories are, like the classic pastourelles of centuries past, tales of love, or at least of lust. The tales are introduced, recounted, and discussed by ten fictional storytellers, five men and five women. These devisants have sought refuge in an abbey to escape a flood, and, seeking a merry and pleasant diversion to pass the time, they decide to spend their afternoons telling stories. After a morning of worship and Bible study, the devisants retire to a most beautiful meadow: '"ce beau pre le long de la riviere du Gave, oU les arbres sont si foeillez que le soleil ne scauroit percer l'ombre ny eschauffer la frescheur"' (4) ['"the lovely meadow that borders the Gave de Pau, where the leaves on the trees are so thick that the hot sun cannot penetrate the shade and the cool beneath"']. (5) The description of the grove where Marguerite de Navarre's devisants tell each other tales of love evokes the setting of the pastourelle. The knight of the medieval pastourelle discovers the shepherdess in a meadow, (6) beside a stream (p. 223) or riverbank (p. 221), underneath a hawthorn (p. 225), or beside a wood in bloom (p. 249). It is because the young lady is alone in this setting, far from city and civilization, that the knight dares approach her with his ardent and perhaps brutal designs. And it is because Marguerite de Navarre's devisants have situated themselves away from abbey, chapel, and court that they are allowed to tell their stories of desire and wantonness alongside tales that emphasize virtue and honour. Marguerite de Navarre went to some lengths to maintain the naturalness of the setting. She provided no chairs, benches, or even cushions for her storytellers. Instead, they seated themselves on grass that was 'si noble et delicate qu'il ne leur falloit carreau ne tappis' (p. 10) ['so ... soft that there was no need for carpets or cushions' (pp. 69-70)]. The day's stories concluded, the devisants left this privileged place, so distinctly of this world, and returned to the abbey for vespers where they might contemplate the next.

The bucolic setting of the pastourelle provides the name for the genre, but it is the debat amoureux that sets this genre apart from other medieval lyric poetry. In the pastourelle we see the eternal battle of the sexes in poetic form. It is always the knight who approaches the shepherdess, and it is he who speaks first, after which the shepherdess inevitably responds, participating in the amorous dialogue. Just as in courtly discourse, the enamoured nobleman is the enunciating subject at the beginning of their encounter; he is le sujet de l'enonciation, in Emile Benveniste's terms. However, unlike the dame who is a silent object of adoration, the 'enunciated subject' (sujet de l'enonce) of medieval lyric poetry, the pursued woman in the pastourelle is afforded a voice. She responds to the knight, engages him in discourse, and with each 'enunciation' or 'utterance' (enonciation) she appropriates the privileged position of sujet de l'enonciation, thereby rejecting the role of object. The shepherdess typically responds to the knight's initial advances with a refusal. She expresses herself fluently and reveals a great deal of common sense, as for example in the thirteenth-century pastourelle by Tibault IV, 'Lautrier par la matinee':
   'Sire, par sainte Marie,
   vous en parlez por noient.
   Mainte dame auront trichie
   cil chevalier soudoiant.'

   ['Sir, by holy Mary, /You are speaking in vain. /Those treacherous
      knights
   /Must have deceived many a lady.']
   (pp. 136-37)


She even exhibits considerable wit: when this knight flees because he hears approaching shepherds who are responding to the young lady's cries for help, she ridicules him: 'si me dist par ramposner, /"Chevalier sont trop hardi!"' ['She said sarcastically, /"Knights are very brave!"' (pp. 136-37)]. This particular knight-narrator recognizes, in his recounting of the events, the verbal facility of the shepherdess; elsewhere, the suitor even congratulates the young girl on her eloquence. In an anonymous thirteenth-century pastourelle, 'Quant escavalcai l'autrer', the knight compliments the shepherdess on her beauty and her eloquence: '"Tosetta de bella faizon, /ben savec dir vostra raison"' ['"Pretty little girl, /You know how to express your thought well"' (pp. 96-97)].

When the shepherdess speaks, she establishes an identity, a certain degree of personal power. Furthermore, the act of enunciating on the part of the knight, the act of initiating and maintaining a dialogue, implies his recognition of the other, the woman, and the inclusion of that other in a dialogue. Benveniste explains that every utterance presupposes a co-locutor: as soon as one takes up the role of speaker in a dialogue 'il implante l'autre en face de lui' [he places the other across from him]. For Benveniste, dialogue is 'une experience humaine', (7) and he insists that the participants in a dialogue are necessarily partners. (8) Thus, when the knight engages a shepherdess in a debat amoureux he recognizes her as a fellow human being, as, to a certain though limited degree, an equal.

Further evidence of some semblance of equality between knight and shepherdess is the investment that both have in the verbal exchange. Each wishes to influence the other, each makes use of dialogic functions in that attempt, and each sometimes succeeds. Rather than simply taking her by force at the outset, the knight always engages the shepherdess in a dialogue. He asks, sometimes very bluntly, for her favours. Returning to Thibaut's pastourelle, we see an example of the dialogic function of interrogation: '"Bele, vostre amor vous qier"' ['"Pretty one, I ask you for your love"' (pp. 136-37)]. This attempt fails, and the knight persists: 'Mult li fis longue proiere' ['I made her a very long entreaty' (pp. 136-37)].

The most common dialogic function is assertion. Benveniste explains that assertion aims to communicate a certitude; it is the most common manifestation of the presence of the locutor in the enonciation. According to Benveniste, there are 'des instruments specifiques qui l'expriment ou l'impliquent, les mots oui et non assertant positivement ou negativement une proposition' [specific instruments that express it or imply it: the words yes and no assert a proposition positively or negatively]. (9) Assertion plays an important role in the pastourelle, particularly when the shepherdess expresses herself, when she acts as sujet de l'enonciation. Sometimes the shepherdess says yes, that is, she agrees to the knight's proposition, as does the one in the anonymous thirteenth-century pastourelle, 'Quant noif remaint et glace funt':
   'Sire, vostre biaux pairleirs
   m'ait dou tout conquize,
   et vostre belle parolle
   m'ait an vos las mize.'

   ['"Sir, your fair speech/Has completely won me over, /And your fair
      words
   /Have put me in your snare"']
   (pp. 246-47)


Other times her assertion is no. Indeed, even the shepherd girls who ultimately cede to the knight resist at first, and enter into the pastourelle's amorous debate. In a thirteenth-century pastourelle by Perrin d'Angicourt, 'Au tens nouvel', the young girl's initial response to the knight's entreaties is typical: '"Sire, alez en"' ['"Sir, go away"' (pp. 182-83)].

The debat amoureux that we see in the medieval pastourelle is also prevalent in the sixteenth-century Heptameron. Jules Gelernt describes Marguerite de Navarre's novellas as 'so many skirmishes in the ubiquitous battle of the sexes for which the over-all design of the Heptameron provides the battleground'. (10) His assertion that 'In this war the men strive for conquest while the women fight to safeguard their virtue, or at least their honor' (11) suggests that as a rule the women in the Heptameron's novellas resist their admirers' advances. But in fact the female characters in Marguerite de Navarre's tales resemble the maidens of the pastourelles in their tendency to yield to temptation from time to time. Like the young and sometimes innocent shepherdess, the pursued woman in the Heptameron says yes to her suitor at times, and at other times her answer is no. Just as the shepherdess sometimes refuses the knight's advances at first and then is convinced by his wooing and cedes to his wishes, some of the female characters in Marguerite de Navarre's novellas initially resist and ultimately succumb to their suitors.

Although the Heptameron was composed during an era when love began and sometimes ended with the regard, amorous dialogue is as important in this collection of novellas as it is in the pastourelle. David LaGuardia has observed that 'the intercourse between men and women in the Heptameron usually takes the form of a linguistic bond, rather than a corporeal one, at least in those tales that detail the diversion or deferral of unauthorized desire'. (12) The suitor in the Heptameron often tries to win over the object of his affections by using words of love. The importance of seductive speech is evident in Marguerite de Navarre's description of Bonnivet, the hero of novella 14. He is much sought after by the ladies, 'tant pour sa beaulte, bonne grace et bonne parolle, que pour le bruict que chascun luy donnoit d'estre ung des plus adroictz et hardys aux armes qui fust poinct de son temps' (pp. 109-10) ['(as much for) his good looks, his charm, his nimble tongue (as for) his reputation for being the ablest and bravest warrior of his age' (p. 181)]. Indeed, in his efforts to seduce a most proud and beautiful lady, Bonnivet speaks to her in 'propos d'amour qu'il scavoit mieulx que nul autre dire' (p. 110) [words of love that he knew better than anyone]. (13) Although Bonnivet's sweet words do not in the end convince this noblewoman to accede to his desires, the potency of seductive speech is nevertheless paramount in the Heptameron. Gary Ferguson concludes that 'the admonition of women to beware of the noble sounding but thoroughly deceitful rhetoric of men' is so often repeated in the Heptameron that 'it must be considered a leitmotif of the work as a whole'. (14)

The author of the Heptameron suggests, in novella 43, that the regard and seductive speech occupy an equal role in manifesting love for another. For many if not most, passion is expressed by means of 'le regard et la parolle' (p. 297) ['a glance here and a word there' (p. 392)], according to Geburon, the devisant who tells this story to the assembled group. In the discussion following novella 18 Geburon affirms the power of words, the danger of even entering into a dialogue with an adversary or, as is often the case in the Heptameron, an ardent and determined admirer: '"on dict que place qui parlamente est demy gaignee"' (p. 142) ['"they say that once you engage in talks, you're already half defeated!"' (p. 219)]. LaGuardia remarks that the very act of speaking to another, that is to say, engaging in dialogue, signals that the participants in the conversation 'are engaged in the first stages of an intimate relationship'. (15) The widow in novella 16 is well aware of the risks of conversing with a suitor, and refuses for three years to speak with the gentleman who seeks the favour of her company. This perfect specimen of a man creeps up beside the lady during mass and complains to her: '"vous me ostez le moyen de parolle"' (p. 130) ['"you take from me all means by which I might speak but a word to you"' (p. 205)], and the lady attempts to defend herself by refusing to participate in a dialogue with him, that is, by refusing to acknowledge his enonciation: she pretends that she cannot understand a word of what he says.

It is far more usual, though, that the pursued woman in the Heptameron engages in provocative conversation with her suitor, like the shepherd girls of the pastourelle. Even the devisants who populate the frame story of the Heptameron enter into seductive verbal duels. Hope Glidden describes the Heptameron as the 'most dialogic of collections'. (16) Much of the conversation in the frame story consists of an amorous debate of sorts, where the devisants discuss the merits and faults of the lovers and the beloved in the tales. The men and the women among the devisants are accorded an equal voice in these discussions, and they participate passionately, expressing widely divergent opinions. At times, though, the conversation becomes more ardent, more intimate. For example, in the prologue to the Heptameron, Simontault, a suitor to Parlamente, grumbles: '"Pleut a Dieu ... que je n'eusse bien en ce monde que de povoir commander a toute ceste compaignye!"' (p. 10) ['"Would to God ... that the one thing in all the world I had were the power to order everyone in our party to comply with my wishes!"' (p. 70)]. Parlamente, who seems quite happily married to Hircan, another of the devisants, understands that Simontault is commenting upon his failed attempts to seduce her, and blushes.

In an interesting and highly unusual variation on this theme, one of the devisants in the Heptameron attempts to seduce his own wife in the prologue to the text. The devisants have found themselves trapped by floodwaters and must wait until a bridge is built so that they can escape. As they discuss possible ways to distract themselves from their predicament, some way to amuse themselves, Hircan remarks slyly: '"Quant a moy, ... si je pensois que le passetemps que je vouldrois choisir fust aussi agreable a quelcun de la compaignie comme a moy, mon opinion seroit bientost dicte"' (p. 8) ['"Well, my point of view wouldn't take long to give ... if I thought that the pastime I would really like were as agreeable to a certain lady among us as it would be to me"' (p. 68)]. Parlamente's refusal is as quick as that of the cleverest shepherdess that one might find in a pastourelle, and she suggests that the group choose a form of entertainment in which all might participate. Rather than this proposed amorous encounter between two of its members, the group settles on an extended amorous debate: the stories and discussions that make up the Heptameron.

In the pastourelles, the debats amoureux might be categorized according to their outcome: those where the chevalier succeeds in seducing the shepherdess, those where he fails, and those where, having been rebuffed, he rapes the young girl. An example of the first type of pastourelle, in which the shepherdess willingly yields to the chevalier, is the anonymous pastourelle 'L'autrier tout seus chevauchoie'. Here the chevalier wins over the shepherdess despite her initial refusal; his offer of a cloak and a belt, and his suggestion that they pick violets together persuade her, and she tells him: '"fetes de moi vo plesir"' ['"Do your pleasure with me"' (pp. 396-97)]. The second category of pastourelle, in which the knight is rejected by the shepherdess and leaves her, is illustrated by Marcabru's pastourelle, 'L'autrier jost'una sebissa'. Marcabru's chevalier comes upon a shepherdess sitting by a hedge. After a lengthy dialogue in which he flatters, cajoles, and attempts to bribe her, the chevalier concludes that this girl is '"tafura"' ['"rascally"' (pp. 38-39)] and that her heart is '"trefayna"' ['"faithless"' (pp. 38-39)] when she refuses to do '"la cauza dossayna"' ['"the sweet thing"' (pp. 38-39)] with him. An example of the third type of pastourelle, one that ends in rape, is Perrin d'Angicourt's 'Au tens nouvel'. His chevalier, like the others we have seen, pleads with a shepherdess 'Mult longuement' ['For a long time' (pp. 182-83)], but his entreaties are in vain. Finally he takes hold of her, pushes her to the ground, and wrestles with her, he reports, until: 'j'achvevai/trestout mon desir' ['I achieved/All my desire' (pp. 184-85)].

Each of these types of 'seduction stories' also appears in the Heptameron. Some of Marguerite de Navarre's suitors succeed in seducing the object of their affection, as did the nobleman in novella 16, who, as we mentioned earlier, suffered his lady's silence for three years. He finally gained access to the bed and body of his beloved after those years of pursuit which involved 'plusieurs refus, peynes, tormentz et desespoirs' (p. 131) ['many a rebuff, much suffering, much torment and much desperation' (p. 206)]. Unlike this gentleman, some suitors in the Heptameron fail in their passionate pursuits, as does the young prince in novella 42. This story bears a strong resemblance to the typical medieval pastourelle. Here we find 'ung seigneur de grande et bonne maison' (p. 286) ['a lord of high and noble birth' (p. 381)] who falls in love at first sight of a young girl who is his social inferior, a bourgeoise who is the daughter of two of his servants. Like the chevaliers in the pastourelles, the nobleman employs various strategies in his attempts to seduce a lovely young woman who is of a lower social class than he: the infatuated nobleman sends her messages through a gentleman of his chamber, he writes her a love letter, he follows her from chapel to chapel when she attends mass, he even intentionally falls from his horse into a mud puddle in front of the girl's house so that he will have an excuse to enter her home and (such foresight on his part!) strip down to his shirt. Finally able to speak with the young lady, he desperately tries to convince her that he will never love another, but in this impassioned exchange the young woman is his equal and has too much sense to believe him, the narrator tells us. The nobleman then attempts to bribe the young girl with five hundred ecus, (17) and to threaten her, all to no avail. Finally, the unsuccessful suitor resigns himself to disappointment.

Like the most determined (and ignoble) knights of the pastourelle, some of the gallants in the Heptameron refuse to accept such a defeat. The young nobleman in novella 62 pursued his neighbor, a young married woman, for several years. For all that time, she was able to maintain control of the amorous dialogue: 'jamais il n'eut responce d'elle, sinon telle que une femme de bien doibt faire' (p. 378) ['(he) received no response other than that which it behoves a lady in those circumstances to give' (p. 485)]. One morning before daybreak, when the lady's husband is absent, the nobleman sneaks into her bedroom and, despite his victim's protests, takes her by force. Thus, the portrait of the impassioned 'lover' is ambiguous in both the pastourelle and the Heptameron. Unlike the chevalier in courtly romance and lyric poetry, this admirer is not always obedient and is most certainly not content to serve and adore from a distance.

The issue of social class is one area in which the Heptameron often differs, radically at times, from the pastourelle. One of the fundamental elements of the pastourelle is the difference in class of the two protagonists: the classical pastourelle always features a pastoure, a shepherdess, and she is inevitably pursued by a nobleman, generally assumed to be a knight. (18) The disparity between the two is in fact necessary to the pastourelle: a shepherdess is accessible to a lustful knight who happens by in ways in which a courtly lady is not. As Kathryn Gravdal points out: 'The Old French pastourelle ... exploits popular beliefs about "a certain kind of woman": the peasant woman.' (19) We find this 'certain kind of woman' in the Heptameron as well, but she is not necessarily a peasant, and in fact some of the non-noble women represented are very virtuous, and even quite heroic. The mule-driver's wife in novella 2, for example, resists the advances of her husband's servant and is raped and slain by the man. Oisille, the eldest of the devisants, describes the poor woman as a 'martire de chastete' (p. 21) ['martyr of chastity' (p. 81)]. While in medieval poetry it is only the pastoure who is sexually attainable, whether by choice or by rape (the courtly lady is inaccessible and irreproachable), the noblewoman of the Heptameron might be a willing participant in a sexual liaison, and if she is not, she is liable to be raped.

Despite the apparently dissimilar roles that class differences play in the pastourelle and the Heptameron, upon closer examination it becomes evident that the two are more closely related in this domain than they may initially seem. Although he is her social superior, the shepherdess sometimes shows herself to be morally superior to the chevalier who woos her. The young girl in Perrin d'Angicourt's pastourelle 'Au tens nouvel' is determined to remain faithful to her shepherd, the handsome Robin, and as she struggles against the chevalier-rapist, she cries out: '"Bele douce mere De, /gardez moi ma chastee!"' ['"Fair, sweet Mother of God, /Protect my chastity?" (pp. 184-85)]. And sometimes the young lady simply has more sense than the knight, as does Marcabru's shepherdess in 'L'autrier jotuna sebissa', who sees through her suitor's flattery and lies, and tells him: '"qui que-m sia, /ben conosc sen o folhia"' ['"whoever I am, /I can tell good sense from folly"' (pp. 36-37)]. One finds the same sort of moral superiority in the young bourgeoise who is pursued by a prince in novella 42 of the Heptameron. The narrator of this tale tells her listeners that the nobleman fully expects to have his way with the young girl precisely because he is of a superior social class: 'pour ce qu'il la congnoissoit de bas et pauvre lieu, espera recouvrer facillement ce qu'il en demandoit' (p. 287) ['As he knew she was of poor family and of low birth, he expected to get what he wanted without any difficulty' (pp. 381-82)]. But the young lady is too virtuous to succumb, and she declares: '"j'ay mon honneur si cher, que j'aymerois mieulx mourir, que de l'avoir diminue, pour quelque plaisir que ce soit en ce monde"' (p. 290) ['"my honour is precious to me, and there is no pleasure in this world for which I would damage it. I would rather die!"' (p. 384)]. Furthermore, like Marcabru's shepherdess, this young lady is far too sensible to believe that a prince would be genuinely interested in someone of her lowly birth, according to the narrator, too wise to trust the nobleman's claims of eternal faithfulness and undying love.

In the pastourelle, the dialogue between the knight and the shepherdess diminishes the fact of their class disparity. Benveniste describes the powerful unifying force that is language, a force that cuts across social classes, that creates community. 'C'est pourquoi la langue represente une permanence au sein de la societe qui change . Elle est une identite a travers les diversites individuelles' (p. 95) [This is why language represents a permanence at the heart of an ever-changing society ... It is an identity that traverses individual diversity].

Further reducing the importance of social class in the pastourelle, Kathryn Gravdal argues that the shepherdess in these poems is, in fact 'no shepherdess at all: she is the courtly lady, dressed in a shepherdess costume' (p. 371). Even if one does not accept this supposition, it is clear, as Joan Ferrante points out, that although she behaves like a peasant, in that she sometimes allows herself to be seduced, she most certainly does not speak like one. (20)

The shepherdess is, in fact, a rather complex character, particularly in light of the simplicity and formulaic nature of the pastourelle. Sometimes faithful to her shepherd, sometimes not, sometimes jealously guarding her chastity, other times agreeing to have sexual relations with a stranger in exchange for a few baubles or some sweet words, the shepherdess is morally ambiguous. As Gale Sigal observes, 'the imperfect but impassioned shepherdess created for the pastourelle is all too human'. (21) Female characters in the Heptameron are every bit as human, and as ambiguous, as the shepherd girls who populate the pastourelles. Some, like the lovely young bourgeoise in novella 42 of the Heptameron, resist amorous overtures and remain chaste. Others, like the widow in novella 16, abandon themselves to love and lust. Still others resist the advances of an all-too-ardent admirer and are subsequently raped.

A cavalier attitude toward rape in the pastourelle has been well documented. Kathryn Gravdal has described pastourelles as 'celebrations of rape' and calculated the frequency of rape in the poems: 'In one-fifth of the extant Old French pastourelles (thirty-eight out of one hundred and sixty texts), the shepherdess is raped by the medieval knight'. (22) When non-French poems are considered, William D. Paden places the incidence of rape at approximately thirteen percent. (23)

Rape is a common occurrence in the Heptameron as well, but, in a significant departure from its depiction in the pastourelle, Marguerite de Navarre relates the experience of rape from the woman's point of view, as Patricia Cholakian has demonstrated. (24) However, both in the novellas and in the subsequent discussions among the devisants, the author of the Heptameron also incorporates into her tales contemporary societal attitudes toward such an attack. The masculine view of rape during the French Renaissance often justified such aggression. Cholakian points out that in Renaissance literature, 'male authors fictionalized rape as seduction', (25) and Marguerite de Navarre affords her male devisants the same point of view. In the discussion following novella 18, Saffredent remarks: '"Il me semble ... que l'on ne scauroit faire plus d'honneur a une femme de qui l'on desire telles choses, que de la prendre par force"' (p. 142) ['"In my opinion, ... when a man desires that sort of thing from a woman, the greatest honour he can do her is to take her by force"' (p. 219)]. In fact, failure to rape one's intended victim was considered by some to be deeply dishonorable to the man. After hearing the story of a thwarted rape attempt in novella 4, Hircan declares that '"je me tiendrois pour deshonore si je ne venois a fin de mon intention"' (p. 34) ['"I'd consider my honour ruined if I didn't go through with it!"' (p. 97)].

Among the many divergent points of view in the Heptameron regarding rape is one that vividly recalls the pastourelle: the idea that a rape can make a jolly tale, recounted for the entertainment of an audience. A young woman in novella 62 of the Heptameron is visiting a certain virtuous and honorable noblewoman when she learns that the custom in this royal household is to tell stories to amuse the noble lady. The visitor launches into a tale, assuring the assembled audience that it is true. It is a story about a respectable noblewoman, entirely faithful to her husband. A young nobleman, in love with this matron, has pursued her, unsuccessfully, for years. Finally he sneaks into her bedroom on an occasion when he knows that her husband will not be there, and climbs into the matron's bed with her, without even bothering to remove his boots and spurs. He rapes the woman and then, as he is leaving her bed, catches his spur on her sheet and pulls it off, leaving the lady stark naked. The noblewoman recounting the story then accidentally lets it slip that, in fact, it was she who was raped, it was she who was left naked as her maids entered the room. This tale of rape, like those in the pastourelles, was recounted for the amusement of its audience, the hostess. And amused she was. Realizing that the lady who told the tale was its subject and victim, and that she had accidentally revealed her identity, the beautiful, honorable, virtuous, and royal hostess laughed.

The rape victim in novella 62 of the Heptameron does not cry out for help when she is attacked in her own bed because, ironically, she is afraid that doing so might damage her reputation. One might then wonder whether a woman in the Heptameron had any means to protect herself from rape. As it turns out, calling for help was sometimes an effective deterrent to rape. The princess in novella 4, also attacked in her bed by a man whom she had previously rebuffed, cries out for her lady-in-waiting. Her assailant, fearful of being recognized, flees. Shouting for help also prevents rape in the pastourelle from time to time. In 'Chevachai mon chief enclin' ['I went riding, my head bowed'] the chevalier quickly tires of trying to persuade the shepherdess to love him and throws her down on the grass. The girl responds by yelling: 'Haut crie goule beeie/ke l'oirent li bergier' ['She cried aloud with her full throat/So that the shepherds heard her' (pp. 226-27)]. A great crowd of shepherds comes to her rescue, led by Robin, her fiance.

The most effective means of preventing rape in the pastourelle turns out to be discourse, perhaps because, as we have observed, discourse is humanizing. A woman who is engaged in a dialogue with a man, even if that man is a potential assailant, a woman who is an enunciating subject, is less objectified than one who remains silent. Sigal remarks that 'If, in the pastourelle, the speaking woman incurs the threat of violence, her proficiency with words can also deflate it'. (26) Furthermore, as Paden points out, 'In no pastourelles does the narrator speak of rape in dialogue and then commit it, in very few does he rape the shepherdess after she has spoken of the threat that he might.' (27) Sometimes the shepherdess, through wit and words, is able to trick the chevalier. The young girl in the pastourelle 'Or voi yver defenir' ['Now I see winter ending'] admits to the chevalier that since she is alone, she realizes that he will have his way with her '"soit per force ou per amor"' ['"Either by strength or by love"' (pp. 232-33)]. She suggests that they hide in the leafy wood, away from the road, so that their 'joie', their 'fun' (pp. 234-35) will not be observed by passers-by. She instructs the chevalier to stay by the road and make sure no one follows them while she goes ahead to find a spot in the woods for their merry-making. She then flees into the woods, calling after her: '"Perdue aveis vostre joie! /Fols musairs, museis enqui!"' ['"You have lost your joy! You foolish gaper, gape today!"' (pp. 234-35)]. Most of the time, however, the shepherd girl's words alone convince the chevalier not to rape her, as in 'L'autrier mi chivachoie' ['The other day I was riding']. This knight is more than clear in his intentions. He tells the young and pretty shepherdess:
   'Belle, ...
   vostre amour averai.
   Ki qui en ait anvie,
   de vos mes boins ferai.'

   ['"Pretty one, ... /I shall have your love. /No matter who resents
      it, /I'll
   have my way with you."']
   (pp. 248-49)


The shepherdess convinces him to leave her alone and untouched when she tells him:
   'Sire, or de grant folie
   (ke jai ne lou ferai,
   je ne vos doute mie)
   mout bien me deffendrai.'

   ['"Sir, now from great folly/(For I'll never do it, /I'm not afraid
      of you)
   /I'll protect myself very well."']
   (pp. 250-51)


In the Heptameron, too, a world where rape was accepted if not expected, many women are able to keep their suitors at an appropriate distance through well-chosen words and skillful arguments. The beautiful lady in novella 18 consents to share her bed with her long-suffering suitor under the exceptionally difficult condition that they not remove their nightshirts, and that their only activities be conversation and chaste kissing. The young man agrees and keeps to his word.

Clearly, participation in discourse confers a certain power on the woman who speaks, who acts as an enunciating subject in that discourse. For, as Benveniste maintains, in all discourse, the intention of the speaker is to influence the hearer. (28) When the woman speaks in the pastourelle, and in the Heptameron, she intends to influence the other, the knight, the suitor, the aggressor. And she succeeds. This is the remarkable innovation of the pastourelle, and the remarkable innovation of the Heptameron as well. The 'lady' of the medieval courtly tradition did not speak. She was nothing more than a passive object, and an imaginary one at that, described by E. Jane Burns as 'a myth of female sexual identity, a misreading of the feminine in terms of the masculine'. (29) Consequently, courtly lyric poetry accorded women no voice.

The classic pastourelle, however, consists primarily of a dialogue between a man and a woman where the woman expresses a distinctly female point of view. Sigal regards the vocal and determined shepherdess in this way: 'Such an anomaly--a lowly shepherdess who can rhetorically hold her own with a knight and retain her virtue and dignity in the process--is truly a literary creation of which to boast'. (30) The shepherd girl in the pastourelle, who occupies an active role within the scene de l'enonciation rather than a passive position atop a pedestal, begins to undo the 'misreading of the feminine.' This opportunity afforded to the female voice was appropriated, developed, and refined by Marguerite de Navarre in her Heptameron. Both in her tales and in the frame story, the author recognizes the inherent equality in 'dialoguing' and underscores it by creating a group of storytellers who are social equals. She further advances this equality through the balance she creates among the devisants: the group telling stories and expressing strong and varied opinions about them consists of five men and five women, none possessing the dominant voice or expressing the fundamental truth, all given equal opportunity to speak.

In its use and valorization of the dialogic, then, the pastourelle is closely tied to the Heptameron. In their narrative function as well, we see a connection between the two. Even the earliest of the pastourelles were narrative in nature, recounting the story of an amorous encounter. They included an introduction of the characters, development of a rudimentary plot, and a resolution. Moreover, both the pastourelle and the novella are founded in observed reality, in le vrai. Michel Zink describes the realism of the pastourelle: 'Le fosse entre les deux personnages, la brutalite du desir, tout cela etait vrai' [The gulf between the two characters, the brutality of desire, all this was genuine]. (31) A number of other elements in the pastourelle render it yet more real. The presence of a narrator who tells his reader that he has seen, heard, spoken with, and perhaps had intimate relations with a shepherdess, builds a base of authenticity for his account. The pastourelles typically open on a realistic note, with a detail that makes the unlikely encounter of a chevalier and a beautiful, articulate shepherdess more credible. Many of the poems begin in the same vein as does the pastourelle 'J'aloie l'autrier errant' by Thibaut IV:
   J'aloie l'autrier errant
   sans conpaignon
   seur mon palefroi, pensant
   a fere une chancon,

   [I was wandering the other day/Without companion/On my palfrey,
   thinking/Of making a song.]
   (pp. 132-33)


The narrator is riding his horse, quite normal for a chevalier. He is alone, and he is in the mood to write a song: the stage is set and he is in the right frame of mind for a romantic interlude. Citing their conversation, both the knight's words and those of the shepherd girl, makes their encounter seem more authentic, and the young girl's refusal to succumb to his advances, at least initially, renders it more believable.

The Heptameron shares with the pastourelle a certain degree of verisimilitude. This basis in reality is fundamental to the novella, and in order for the tale to be accepted as true the narrator must prove his truthfulness. (32) To this end, Marguerite de Navarre's narrators claim to have directly witnessed the events they recount, or to have learned of them from someone who can be trusted. As Mathieu-Castellani observes: 'Les Dix ne cessent d'accrediter leur recit, multipliant les informants et les indices, de declarer "tres veritable" leur histoire, et de se munir de garants serieux' [The Ten never stop confirming their stories, increasing the number of informants and amount of evidence, declaring their stories 'completely true,' and providing serious proof]. (33) The supposed authenticity of the tales that make up the Heptameron is a fundamental aspect of the text. As the devisants are discussing ways to entertain themselves while they wait out the flood, Parlamente proposes that they tell each other stories, with the stipulation that these stories will be true: '"dira chascun quelque histoire qu'il aura veue ou bien oy dire a quelque homme digne de foy"' (p. 10) ['"each of us will tell a story which he has either witnessed himself, or which he has heard from somebody worthy of belief"' (p. 69)]. Returning to novellas 18 and 42, we see the devisants emphasizing the veracity of the tales they tell. When Saffredent questions the motivation of the nobleman described by Hircan in novella 18, Hircan claims to understand why the subject of his story acted as he did because he knows him personally: '"a veoir sa personne et congnoistre sa complexion"' (pp. 141-42) ['"knowing him as well as I do, and knowing what his temperament is like"' (p. 218)]. Before beginning to recount novella 42, Parlamente assures her audience: '"je vous en voys compter une, dont je puis servir de tesmoing"' (p. 286) ['"I'll tell you a story whose truth I can myself testify to"' (p. 380)]. Furthermore, she claims to know these people, and she tells a story about them, just as the knight in the pastourelle tells a story that he knows to be true (he was, after all, there), a story about people he knows (including, of course, himself).

Clearly, the Heptameron inherited substantially from the pastourelle. Marguerite de Navarre borrowed from the genre in creating her collection of novellas and revitalized its themes. The most significant of her borrowings is the amorous dialogue, or debat amoureux, the wordplay between seducer and seduced that is a central characteristic of the pastourelle, a characteristic that distinguishes the pastourelle from other medieval lyric poetry. The shepherdess in the pastourelle is not limited to the role of object, of sujet de l'enonce. Instead, she and her suitor share the subject position; each takes a turn at being le sujet de l'enonciation in the discourse that is central to the poem. This shared subject position is evident in the Heptameron as well; Marguerite de Navarre creates a framework for her collection of novellas in which an equal number of men and women recount an equal number of tales, tales in which women participate in and sometimes control the discourse.

Rape, too, is common to both the pastourelle and the Heptameron: rape threatened and rape committed, and most significantly for the purposes of this essay, rape avoided--avoided through skillful arguments and clever words. That is to say, rape avoided by means of discourse.

A notable difference between the two is their treatment of social class. The suitor in the pastourelle is always socially superior to the woman he pursues, though the difference in their social class is diminished by the equalizing impact of discourse. In the Heptameron the attempt to cross class lines in lustful pursuit is considerably less frequent. One division by social class is constant in both the pastourelle and the Heptameron: it is always an aristocrat who narrates the story. The chevalier in the pastourelle tells the tale of his attempt at seduction, and Marguerite de Navarre's group of noblemen and noblewomen, gathered in the meadow, recount tales to one another. In this storytelling, this narrative core, the pastourelle serves as a sort of precursor to the novella. The pastourelle also foreshadows the Heptameron by giving woman a voice. No longer a silent object to be admired and desired, the woman in these texts participates in the debat amoureux. She establishes herself as je, as I, as a speaking subject.

Modern and Classical Languages

Saint Louis University

(1) See, for example Pierre Jourda, Conteurs francais du XVI e siecle (Paris: Gallimard, 1965) and Jerry Nash, "Heptameron 71 and its Intertextuality: The Fabliau Art of Narrative Distance', French Forum, 19.1 (1994), 5-16.

(2) See William D. Paden, The Medieval Pastourelle (New York: Garland Publishing, 1987), pp. ix-xiii, for an excellent description of the form and history of the genre.

(3) A number of critics have observed Christine de Pizan's participation in (and reversal of) the pastourelle tradition with her Dit de la pastoure. See, for example, William D. Paden, 'Christine de Pizan as a Reader of the Medieval Pastourelle', in Conjunctures: Medieval Studies in Honor of Douglas Kelly, eds Keith Busby and Norris J. Lacy (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994), pp. 387-405; and Geri L. Smith, The Medieval French Pastourelle Tradition: Poetic Motivations and Generic Transformations (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009), especially Chapter 4.

(4) Marguerite de Navarre, L'Heptameron, ed. Michel Francois (Paris: Bordas, 1991), p. 10. All further citations are from this text.

(5) Marguerite de Navarre, The Heptameron, ed. and trans. P. A. Chilton (London: Penguin, 1984), p. 69. Unless otherwise noted, all English translations of L'Heptameron are from this text.

(6) Paden, The Medieval Pastourelle, p. 233. All citations of pastourelles, as well as their English translations, are from this anthology.

(7) Problemes de linguistique generale (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1974), pp. 82, 65.

(8) 'Deux figures en position de partenaires sont alternativement protagonistes de l'enonciation' (Problemes de linguistique generale, p. 85).

(9) Problemes de linguistique generale, p. 84.

(10) Jules Gelernt, World of Many Loves: The Heptameron of Marguerite de Navarre (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966), p. 68.

(11) World of Many Loves, p. 68.

(12) The Iconography of Power: The French Nouvelle at the End of the Middle Ages (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1999), p. 123. Robert D. Cottrell has observed the erotic nature of language in the Heptameron. He remarks that: 'If in the Heptameron the word "plaisir" designates primarily sexual gratification and is sharply distinguished from "amour", it also designates the gratification that is derived from speech. "Le plaisir de parler" is often linked with "le plaisir de faire bonne chere," one of the text's euphemisms for sexual activity. In the Heptameron, speaking, like eating, is eroticized.' Robert D. Cottrell, 'Inmost Cravings: The Logic of Desire in the Heptameron', in Critical Tales: New Studies of the Heptameron and Early Modern Culture, eds John d. Lyons and Mary B. McKinley (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), pp. 3-24 (p. 13).

(13) My translation.

(14) 'Gendered Oppositions in Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron: The Rhetoric of Seduction and Resistance in Narrative and Society', in Renaissance Women Writers: French Texts, American Contexts, eds Anne R. Larsen and Colette H. Winn (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994), pp. 143-59 (p. 143).

(15) 'The Voice of the Patriarch in the Heptameron I: 10', Neophilologus 81.4 (October 1997), 501-13 (p. 503).

(16) Hope Glidden, 'Gender, Essence, and the Feminine (Heptameron 43)', in Critical Tales, eds Lyons and McKinley, pp. 25-40 (p. 25).

(17) The 'bribes' so often attempted by the knights in the pastourelles are rare in the Heptameron, but there were most certainly those who, in the opinion of this text, could be won over by 'presens' and 'parolles' (p. 142) ['presents and talk' (p. 219)] as Saffredent remarks in the discussion following novella 18.

(18) Christopher Callahan points out that 'the social disparity between the two protagonists is a cornerstone of the pastourelle'. ('Hybrid Discourse and Performance in the Old French Pastourelle', French Forum, 27.1 (Winter 2002), 1-22 (p. 1)).

(19) 'Camouflaging Rape: The Rhetoric of Sexual Violence in the Medieval Pastourelle', Romanic Review, 76.4 (November 1985), 361-73 (p. 365).

(20) 'Yet the peasant actually speaks in too polished a way and with too much knowledge of courtly traditions and literature to be anything but a figure for the courtly lady' ('Male Fantasy and Female Reality in Courtly Literature', Women's Studies, 11.1-2 (1984), 67-97 (p. 70)).

(21) 'Courted in the Country: Woman's Precarious Place in the Troubadours' Lyric Landscape', in Text and Territory: Geographical Imagination in the European Middle Ages, eds. Sylvia Tomasch and Sealy Gilles (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), pp. 185-206 (p. 185).

(22) 'Camouflaging Rape', pp. 361-62.

(23) 'Rape in the Pastourelle', Romanic Review, 80.3 (May 1989), 331-49 (p. 332). Paden disagrees with Gravdal's characterization of the pastourelle as a 'celebration of rape': 'Clearly, ... pastourelles do exist in which sexual union occurs by mutual consent under a variety of circumstances, and their existence precludes a view of the whole genre as a 'celebration of rape.' ('Rape in the Pastourelle', p. 343).

(24) See her extensive and fascinating study of the subject in Rape and Writing in the Heptameron of Marguerite de Navarre (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991).

(25) Rape and Writing, p. 16.

(26) 'Courted in the Country', pp. 204-05.

(27) Paden 'Rape in the Pastourelle', p. 334.

(28) 'Il faut entendre discours dans sa plus large extension: toute enonciation supposant un locuteur et un auditeur, et chez le premier l'intention d'influencer l'autre en quelque maniere' (Problemes de linguistique generale, pp. 241-42).

(29) 'The Man Behind the Lady in Troubadour Lyric', Romance Notes, 25.3 (Spring 1985), 254-70 (p. 263).

(30) 'Courted in the Country', p. 193.

(31) La Pastourelle: Poesie et folklore au Moyen Age (Paris: Bordas, 1972), p. 112.

(32) Gisele Mathieu-Castellani notes that 'La nouvelle . pretend representer le monde vecu, les "realia" de la societe contemporaine' [The novella claims to represent the real world, the 'realia' of contemporary society] (La Conversation conteuse: Les Nouvelles de Marguerite de Navarre (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1992), p. 8).

(33) La Conversation conteuse, p. 11. For a discussion of the processes of authentication in the Heptameron, see also Kathleen Loysen, Conversation and Storytelling in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century French Nouvelles (New York: Peter Lang, 2004), especially pp. 98-102.
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Publication:Parergon
Article Type:Critical essay
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Date:Jan 1, 2010
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