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Fauvel Studies: Allegory, Chronicle, Music, and Image in Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, MS francais 146.

Fauvel Studies: Allegory, Chronicle, Music, and Image in Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, MS francais 146. Edited by Margaret Bent and Andrew Wathey. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998. [xix, 666 p. ISBN 019-816579.X. $165.]

The Roman de Fauvel, a fourteenth-century satire on the abuse of power, has fascinated scholars for over a century. In its short version, it is a two-part French poem that recounts the tale of Fauvel, a fawn-colored horse whose very name represents falsehood and is an acronym for other vices as well. In the first part, Fauvel is elevated to power by Fortune, curried by nobles and clergy, and poised to send France to its destruction. The second part tells of his unsuccessful courtship of Fortune, marriage to Vaine Gloire, and siring of numerous progeny, who swarm across France as the end of the world looms near. The two parts date from 1310 and 1314 respectively, toward the end of the troubled reign of Philippe IV. Part 2 names the royal notary Gerves du Bus as its author.

Of the dozen or so manuscript copies of Fauvel, one stands out above all others: Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, f. fr. 146. Enlarged by Chaillou de Pesstain by 1316 or 1317, this version has several thousand additional lines of verse and 169 musical interpolations consisting of Latin chant, French songs, and polyphonic motets. Seventy-seven ink drawings, highlighted with color wash, illustrate this monstrous, yet playful, tale. Other musical and historical works were copied into the same manuscript and are thought to be strongly connected with Fauvel.

Scholars have been occupied for decades with editing and analyzing Fauvel, especially the long version in fr. 146. Foremost among recent studies is The Roman de Fauvel in the Edition of Mesire Chaillou de Pesstain: A Reproduction in Facsimile of the Complete Manuscript, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, Fonds Fran cais 146, by Edward Roesner, Nancy Freeman Regalado, and Francois Avril (New York: Broude, 1990). This publication is important both for its complete facsimile of fr. 146 and its seminal introduction; the latter draws comparisons between the poetry and contemporary events and presents studies of the illumination, the identity of the main artist, the compilation of the manuscript, and the musical notation and rhythmic style in relation to contemporary theoretical treatises.

The volume under review, an impressive collection of twenty-seven articles, is the product of seminars and conferences held between 1992 and 1995 and organized by editors Margaret Bent and Andrew Wathey. The editors' excellent introduction provides historical background based on recent research and highlights many of the issues addressed in the essays that follow. Because its methods and topics are so diverse, with occasionally conflicting results, Fauvel Studies is best appreciated as a cross-section of current scholarly inquiry rather than as a unified work; the articles are arranged alphabetically by author, not thematically.

Two of the contributors concentrate on topics independent of the readings specific to fr. 146: Nigel F. Palmer looks at the "cosmic quaternities" in the short version of Gerves's Fauvel, part 2, with special attention to the history and meanings of melancholy; and Jane H. M. Taylor presents a guide to the lesser-known Roman de Fauvain, whose comic-book hero is a feminine, or androgenous, version of Fauvel.

All of the other articles deal with facets of fr. 146, though not necessarily with the Roman de Fauvel. Some concern the principal works copied alongside Fauvel: Leo-franc Holford-Strevens edits, translates, and comments on the two Latin dits of Geffroy de Paris; Mary and Richard Rouse evaluate the biography of Jehannot de l'Escurel; Wulf Arlt analyzes the musical style of l'Escurel's chansons; and Regalado and Jean Dunbabin examine the Chronique metrique, focusing respectively on its thematic similarities with Fauvel and its authorship.

The remaining articles all deal with the Roman de Fauvel in Chaillou's long version. Ardis Butterfield provides an edition and catalog of the French refrains, and Susan Rankin provides the same for the Latin monophony. Alice V. Clark and Emma Dillon analyze particular motets, Lorenz Welker studies the recomposition of two conductus, and Christopher Page traces the stylistic changes in the monophonic chanson of the fourteenth century. Anne Walters Robertson uses comparative analysis to study the origins of the liturgical chants. Contributions to art history are made by Alison Stones, who traces the diffusion of the artistic style of the Fauvel master and related artists; Michael Camille and Martin Kauffmann, who write on iconographical subjects; and Michael T. Davis, who describes the architecture of the royal palace on the Ile de la Cite. The literary portrayal of character receives special attention from Kevin Brownlee, who considers Chaillou's representation of himself, and Jean-Claude Muhlethaler, who loo ks at the varied aspects of Fortune. Other studies range from Michel Huglo's brief history of the charivari and Joseph C. Morin's codicological study to investigations of the authors, compilers, and potential patrons of fr. 146. These include chapters by Elisabeth Lalou on the royal chancellory and the possible identity of Chaillou de Pesstain, Malcolm Vale on the royal courts, and Wathey on Gerves du Bus and his circle.

Political relevance and intertextuality are themes found in many of the chapters, and there is no question that understanding these aspects of fr. 146 is necessary for interpreting many of the passages contained within it. With its narrative verse, interpolated music, and illustrations--often all on the same page--the Roman de Fauvel turns the reader into a juggler trying to keep the various objects in play. The twists and turns in depiction of character demand frequent comparisons between one part of the text and another, as Brownlee and Muhlethaler amply demonstrate. Certainly the historical works in fr. 146--Geffroy's dits and the Chronique metrique--require knowledge of the events to which they refer. In addition, the allegorical Fauvel receives much scrutiny from both a political and intertextual point of view in the chapters by Elizabeth A. R. Brown, Bent, Clark, Dillon, Regalado, and Wathey. The historical background and archival research supplied by Brown and Wathey are important contributions to the search for the patron and destination of the manuscript.

Fauvel Studies does not contain any discussion of music notation. That we do not understand fully how to transcribe the rhythm of the measured songs and motets may come as a surprise to scholars outside of musicology; for example, even determining the correct tempus of a piece--whether a breve contains two or three semibreves--is a matter of guesswork. Ant tacitly acknowledges the problem by including the original notation above his transcriptions for comparison.

This substantial volume, beautifully and carefully edited, is an outstanding contribution to fourteenth-century studies. We are indebted to Bent and Wathey for bringing it all together.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:WOLINSKI, MARY E.
Publication:Notes
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2000
Words:1109
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