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The churchman and the fox

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Known to Roman de Renart scholars as MS I, the manuscript BnF, f. fr. 12584 has received surprisingly little critical attention. The codex was discounted in early but influential appraisals by philologists like Ernest Martin, who characterised its late Renart text as absurdly abridged and useless in the reconstitution of an archetypal original. More favourable assessments of both the Renart text of MS I and its remarkably copious system of illustration have since appeared, especially thanks to the forensic attention of Ettina Nieboer, who proposed an intriguing solution to the many riddles of the copy: it seems to have been commissioned by Guy de Roye, Archbishop of Tours. Over two decades later, however, Nieboer’s analyses remain the most detailed treatments of the codex.

My aim in this article is to call for renewed attention to MS I by exploring the neglected obverse of the abridging and suppressing patterns that Nieboer discovered. I argue that a certain tendency to police the Renart, or render it manageable, can indeed be detected in MS I in the plenitude of its present state: the book opens with a devotional painting of the Virgin Mary and contains extensive maniculae highlighting proverbial material. However, to stop here would be to leave the tale incomplete: the book also stages a pronounced resistance to these systems of control, illustrating across its many folios the sheer impossibility of imposing order upon the Roman de Renart.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2018

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