LA NOSTALGIE ET LA RECHERCHE DU PARADIS PERDU DANS LES 'LAIS' DE MARIE DE FRANCE. (FRENCH TEXT)
DATTA, EVELYNE DOCHY
Doctor of Philosophy
Numerous studies have been devoted to the Lays of Marie de France, but few consider the Lays as a cohesive unity. Most critics deal only with one theme or one aspect of the Lays or examine each lay as a separate entity. Drawing on anthropological and archetypal criticism and more particularly on the works of Mircea Eliade and Gilbert Durand, the present study highlights the unity of the Lays, as well as their ongoing literary value, by showing how a mythical dimension underlies the desire for happiness, and how Marie by depicting the social and cultural occupations and the mentality of her time, adapts and recreates the universal myth of the Lost Paradise. By focusing on the mythical background of the Lays, I will examine the concepts of "time" and "space" in order to illustrate how the heroes and heroines try to overcome the human condition, i.e. duality, by (re)-creating or (re)-integrating a harmonious universe, paradise, so as to escape death and achieve a kind of transcendency. The Edenic world the heroes and heroines turn to is based on other dimensions than the world that surrounds them. "Time" and "space" are "qualitatively" different. In most lays, it is the present of the beloved one that structures "space" and determines "time," which reveals their "true" significance. Some heroes and heroines turn to the past, in a nostalgic evocation of lost happiness, as do for instance the heroes and heroines in Laustic and Chaitivel. The majority of Marie's protagonists such as Guigemar, Lanval or the lover in Deus Amanz, however, go forward. For them paradise lies in the future. In the former lays, "nostalgia" characterizes stasis whereas in the latter lays the concepts of "initiation" and "rebirth" focus on the theme of the "quest," and put these lays in a dynamic perspective. Not all heroes and heroines attain harmony or reach paradise. It is relevant nevertheless that those who do, do so on different levels (individual and social) and through different means (love, friendship, poetry), which greatly accounts for the variety and liveliness of the Lays. In essence, the Lays all tell the same story but variously describe the unique manner in which "adventure" comes to these individual protagonists, who have in common the desire for earthly paradise.