This volume forms part of a collaborative research project ‘Poetic Knowledge in Late Medieval France’, which examines the role of poetry in French culture from the late thirteenth to the early sixteenth centuries in transmitting and shaping knowledge. The project looks not only at the explicit content of the poetry but also, more importantly, at the kinds of knowledge that are implied by its form and context, at the types of expertise to which it gives rise, and at the nature of the communities it presupposes or creates.
The majority of the chapters presented here are drawn from the project's conference (‘Poetry, Knowledge and Community in Late Medieval France’, Princeton University, 1–4 November 2006) and the rest from papers given by invited speakers at its regular research seminars. These have all contributed substantially to the ongoing research of the ‘Poetic Knowledge’ project, exploring and developing key areas of thought and extending the horizons of what we mean by ‘poetry’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘community’, and the ways in which these concepts may be seen to interrelate. The chapters comprise studies of both canonical and less well-known French and Occitan verse literature, and cover a wide range of complementary subject areas including the status of poetry as an object of knowledge; poetry and philosophy; the relationship between verse and prose; citation; textual histories and textual communities; the transmission and revision of poetic texts; and the relationship between poetry, politics, and power. The wider implications of these individual studies will be drawn out in the volume's conclusion, which explores the significant role played by poetry (as opposed to prose) in the culture of knowledge of late medieval France.
The period covered by this volume extends from the late thirteenth to the late fifteenth century, encompassing the rich and influential developments in poetic form and content that flourished in the years between Jean de Meun's composition of his continuation of the Roman de la Rose and the poetic works of Meschinot. This may generally be thought of as the period during which prose writing came to the fore, transmitting a straightforward ‘truth’ that contrasted with the beguiling tortuousness of verse.