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Speaking Through Animals In Marie De France’s Lais And Fables

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Chapter Summary

The animals that perform with such captivating charm in the Fables and Lais of Marie de France come together onstage in a single manuscript: London, British Library, Harley 978. In her different "translations" from one world to another, Marie de France uses animals in a variety of ways to amuse and engage us but also to make us ask questions. Marie designed her two collections so that readers may play a game of combinatorics, that is, identifying sets of like objects and following their interplay: how many fables involve this or that animal, which ones share the same theme or moral, or how many lais introduce a mal mariée, which ones end happily, which stories favor the lovers and which the husbands or wives? Repetitions once recognized reveal the play of variation that may simply entertain, or uncover significant differences that require interpretation.

Keywords: animals; Fables; Lais; Marie de France



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