When Charles Mazouer’s first edition of Le Théâtre français du Moyen A^ge appeared in 1998, no systematic survey of the medieval French theatre had been published in forty years. Produced in tandem with a volume on the ‘Renaissance’ era, this well-received literary history traced the development of francophone theatrical genres and texts across half a millennium. Nearly two decades have now passed, a fruitful period in which the field has been invigorated and enriched by in-depth archival studies, new critical editions, and a broad-based re-examination of the discipline itself. An updated history is thus much needed. Thankfully, Mazouer’s second edition demonstrates a thorough reworking and expansion based on the latest scholarship and bibliography, renewing its utility and pointing to the future. The new volume preserves the original organization, being divided into five roughly chronological chapters that study ‘characteristic’ dramatic genres (understood flexibly). Mazouer briefly provides social and historical context for each section, yet examination of individual texts forms the core of the work. His first chapter addresses early religious theatre from the tenth to thirteenth centuries, highlighting forms of ‘liturgical drama’ such as Easter plays and the Ordo representacionis Ade. Chapter 2 focuses on the developing urban theatre of Arras and other francophone regions of the north in the thirteenth century. Chapter 3 moves to the fourteenth century, looking closely at Les Miracles de Notre-Dame. New material on Eustache Deschamps and L’Estoire de Griseldis is incorporated here as well. Chapters 4 and 5 share the fifteenth century, examining the ‘théâtre édifiant’ and the ‘théâtre du rire’ respectively. These final two sections provide extensive and detailed analysis that covers the mystères, passions, sermons joyeux, farces, and sotties. At the end, a new index of names joins the updated bibliography and an index of works. On the whole, this second edition is a strong volume, despite a few puzzling omissions. The elimination of the black-and-white figures that illustrated the first edition represents a significant loss, as well as undercutting Mazouer’s argument about the primacy of images. Certain gaps exist in the English-language bibliography: Carol Symes’s groundbreaking study of Arras is absent, for example (A Common Stage: Theater and Public Life in Medieval Arras (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007)). Moreover, given the surge in francophone archival work and regional studies, one might hope for more attention to the socio-historical and material contexts of performance. However, although the reader may not agree with all the author’s choices — the preservation of a relatively strict divide at the year 1500 remains problematic, for example — Mazouer is nonetheless careful to acknowledge varying approaches. These caveats aside, this edition manages to be both comprehensive and focused, while deftly avoiding simplistic formulations. It provides an excellent survey of the medieval French theatre, which will be of use for many years to come. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
French Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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