Arrêt sur image: La théorie littéraire à l’épreuve de la topique médiévale

Translated title of the contribution: Considerations on the image: Literary theory challenged by medieval topics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By denouncing the false problem of the anteriority of the image over the word (a variant of the Western mythos/logos antinomy), Georges Didi-Huberman argues that the (anthropological) link of co-naturality between these two spheres must be reconstructed and insists, therefore, on the cognitive status of the image (versus its merely aesthetic or ornamental nature or its pseudo-referential or denotative nature). While deepening the epistemological gap with the Platonic tradition, this ontological rehabilitation of the image allows him to understand it as a real node weaved by anachronisms. Like the artistic image, the literary image (theme or motif, for example) can then be understood as a place or surface (topos) of permanent tensions in which various cultural, poetic, and temporal strata superimpose on each other, forming potential micro-narratives whose exploration implies an authentic textual archaeology. The medieval narrative (through the Chanson de Geste, in particular) constitutes a particularly fertile terrain for this approach to the poetic imagery, notably through the subliminal trajectory of certain objects with an identity value. The circulation of the sword is particularly interesting to observe: with its own nature and story conferred by its legendary (Galan the forgeman, Chapalu), pseudo-historical (a witness of the Passion, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne), or cultural (a Jew, a Muslim) origin; endowed with a temporal and narrative dimension whose very meanders are significant (a sword that has been given, stolen or purchased; a sword whose trajectory is presented as continuous or discontinuous: a misplaced, hidden, or recovered sword; an incorruptible or broken sword, etc. ), this object, so common and yet so mysterious, disturbs the fictional organisation of the account, revealing, under the textual framework, the complexity of a founding pre-text woven from numerous cultural strata and multiple narrative voices that the medieval text, far from erasing its vestiges, never ceases to reinvest and reconfigure.
Translated title of the contributionConsiderations on the image: Literary theory challenged by medieval topics
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalCarnets: revue électronique d’études françaises
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Medieval poetry
  • Image and imaginary in the Middle Ages
  • Ars memoriae
  • Theory of topoi


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