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The Ohio State University

1. Bevevino, Lisa Shugert. Demis Defors: the Narrative Structure and Cultural Implications of the Contemplation of Death in Medieval French Courtly Literature.

Degree: PhD, French and Italian, 2012, The Ohio State University

This dissertation traces the literary and cultural implications of the representation of suicide and despair in courtly literature from medieval France. The study begins with an introduction to the scholarly work already done on literary texts and is followed by a historical introduction to the problem of suicide and despair in medieval society. Scenes of suicide and despair fall into five main categories: the martyr trope, the desire for union outside the constraints of mortal life, the erotic, the way to truly express the value of life, and the apprehension of death, and they function together to show pieces of the individual personality of each character as well as to highlight societal and cultural problems that would lead a character to despair. Despair and suicide were both grave sins according to the Church in the Middle Ages, yet authors make no obvious commentary or explicit judgment against their despairing or suicidal characters. They do judge them for other sins and transgressions, so this dissertation seeks to examine how the authors do view their characters and what that implies about societal reactions to their problems. Texts from Augustine of Hippo, Ratherius of Verona, and the Fourth Lateran Council provide the religious implications of suicide and despair, and the use of historical studies also inform the societal practices. The texts studied are: The Golden Legend in its Latin, French, and Old Occitan versions; Le Roman d’Eneas; Le Roman de Troie; Partonopeus de Blois; Chrétien de Troyes’s Le Chevalier au Lion, ou Yvain; and Crescas du Caylar’s Le Roman de la Reine Ester. The saints and martyrs from early Christianity provide a significant amount of literary inspiration in the Middle Ages, and their tradition sets the stage for characters to express a wish for an end to earthly existence in a religiously acceptable way. The romans antiques, inspired by Classical war epics, provide another tradition of facing voluntary death or even wishing for death as part of the heroic tradition. This then enters into the conscience of characters in vernacular, secular texts from both Christian and Jewish authors. I argue that although the Church cares about the state of one’s soul especially in the face of death and despair, authors create many situations in which such activity is acceptable. Gender, war, love, and other values may trump the laws of the Church within a literary text, but great attention and many lines are dedicated to the problems of the soul, showing that human suffering is as important in a religious context as it is in daily life. Within the narrative structure of courtly literature, no condemnation comes down against two of the gravest sins. Advisors/Committee Members: Heller, Sarah-Grace (Advisor).

Subjects/Keywords: Literature; suicide; despair; medieval; middle ages; death wish; Yvain; Chretien de Troyes; Augustine; Bataille; Derrida; Partonopeu de Blois; hagiography; Golden Legend; Legende Doree; Legenda Aurea; Vashti; Provencal; Old French; Ancien Francais; Old Occitan; Latin

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APA (6th Edition):

Bevevino, L. S. (2012). Demis Defors: the Narrative Structure and Cultural Implications of the Contemplation of Death in Medieval French Courtly Literature. (Doctoral Dissertation). The Ohio State University. Retrieved from http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=osu1343794962

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Bevevino, Lisa Shugert. “Demis Defors: the Narrative Structure and Cultural Implications of the Contemplation of Death in Medieval French Courtly Literature.” 2012. Doctoral Dissertation, The Ohio State University. Accessed October 18, 2019. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=osu1343794962.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Bevevino, Lisa Shugert. “Demis Defors: the Narrative Structure and Cultural Implications of the Contemplation of Death in Medieval French Courtly Literature.” 2012. Web. 18 Oct 2019.

Vancouver:

Bevevino LS. Demis Defors: the Narrative Structure and Cultural Implications of the Contemplation of Death in Medieval French Courtly Literature. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. The Ohio State University; 2012. [cited 2019 Oct 18]. Available from: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=osu1343794962.

Council of Science Editors:

Bevevino LS. Demis Defors: the Narrative Structure and Cultural Implications of the Contemplation of Death in Medieval French Courtly Literature. [Doctoral Dissertation]. The Ohio State University; 2012. Available from: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=osu1343794962

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