Authorship and Authority:

Barking Abbey and Its Texts

Martin E. Segal Theater

CUNY Graduate Center, September 11, 2009


“Imagining Influence: Clemence’s Vie and other Old French Catherines”

Donna Alfano Bussell, University of Illinois, Springfield

This essay examines the monastic and courtly discourses on friendship in Clemence’s Vie de sainte Catherine, focusing especially on how these discourses connect to a lexis of political amity and the strategies of negotiation that the rituals and language of amity support.  I pay particular attention to Clemence’s redaction of the conversion trope, in which the “illustrious,” pagans not only desire the salvation offered by Christianity, but also yearn for the bountiful society that it nurtures. I also discuss the importance of amity in other Old French Catherine legends whose authors may have been influenced by Clemence’s Vie, including two continental Old French verse Katherine legends of the first half of the 13th C: one in a Western French dialect composed by an author who identifies himself in the epilogue as Gui, and appears to be addressing a courtly audience; the other a Picard Life of St. Katherine whose author is not known, but who appears to be addressing a monastic audience.

Last modified: May 6, 2009
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