“Mort ont Guillelme […] par lor parole”: Écriture épique et réinvention de la mémoire d’après Le Moniage Guillaume

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Every act of writing is, immediately, and always, a form of oblivion. This is why, in a time when oral civilization is progressively giving in to the domination of the written sign, the chanson de geste – true poetics of memory- is, from its dawn, haunted by the spectre of corruption as posed by l’estoire, the lack of memory or fracture which, established in the order of the discourse and the world, would end up by engendering a male cançun (as the Chanson the Roland suggested) which would prevent the identifying recognition and the adhesion of the textual community to this all profane commemorative ritual which is the epic discourse. Now, every attempt to heal that fracture is closely associated with the temptation of reinventing the memory, of rewriting the time, forreasons and purposes, which are not, for us, perfectly clear. Le Moniage Guillaume (12th century poem) stretches this logic of manipulation of memory (in its technical, scriptural sense) even further. The trajectory of Guillaume and his voluntary option for a monastic and eremitical life is, in fact, very extraordinary, either from the poetic point of view (allowing the epic language to dive once more in the vivifying source of legend and hagiography) but also from the cultural and ideological point of view (impasse of the chivalric model; failure of a semiology of violence that condemns the narrative to a sort of haemorrhage of writing which never manages to heal that blessed wound open in the heart of Christendom: hence a radical re-reading of the past, the heroic deeds of Guillaume while serving Louis the Pious that become gestures spoiled by error; the failure of a monarchy ruled by ingratitude, the usurpation of feudal rights and the word itself; the deficit at the level of spiritual power, where sin pontificates in all its forms). By purging the epic universe of all its exogenous and threatening elements, which used to be a fundamental part it (even the troubling figure of Rainouart has been excluded from the narrative horizon), Guillaume’s ascesis (the humiliation and exhibition of the body; the imprisonment, tearing and suffering of the body; the temptations of the devil over that same body) is not only circumscribed to the scheme of the sanctification of the hero, but it also acquires a strong symbolic significance. Yet, if, on the one side, the Moniage allows Guillaume to rebound with his pacifying civilised side (of which the episode of the plundered garden is an eloquent but ambiguous emblem) implying a rewriting of the memory aiming at purifying/recreating the Order in its divers manifestations, on the other hand, it also proposes to go beyond the epic model (as narratio rei gestae) by hoisting the fictional word to the status of Creating Verb. The text, then, assumes the singular traits of a Myth of Foundation (Le Pont du Diable, Saint-Guilhelm-du-Désert, rue Bernard-du-Fossé in Paris) in which the poetic chant – here converted into a powerful commemorative liturgy, and a precious instrument of legitimation and propaganda at the service of certain monastic ambitions (rivalry between the abbey of Gellone and the one of Aniane)- usurps the place which used to belong to the historic discourse and the reality itself in the heart of representation.
Original languageFrench
Title of host publicationPecia. Le livre et l’écrit, 17 (2014)
Subtitle of host publicationLe manuscrit, entre écriture et texte. Première partie
Place of PublicationBélgica
PublisherBrepols Publishers
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9782503553900
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Literatura Francesa Medieval (séc. XII)
  • Poética medieval
  • Imaginário épico
  • Construção da memória
  • Mito e epopeia

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