Gender, politics, and the book: The construction of a narrative of empire, Ms BN fr 60, ca. 1330

Tina-Marie Ranalli, University of Pennsylvania


The Roman de Thèbes, Roman de Troie, and Roman d'Enéas, medieval renderings of some of the best known epics of classical antiquity, were composed in the mid-twelfth century by different authors and were then assembled together as three components of a larger narrative, a century-and-a-half later, in only one extant manuscript, BN fr 60. I examine this codex within the context of the political climate at the time of its completion, ca. 1330 in Paris. It is my contention that this manuscript was commissioned as an attempt to legitimize the new Valois dynastic line. The ascension of the Valois king Philip VI in 1328, which would have been approximately when this codex was ordered, occurred during a royal succession crisis which lasted from 1316 to 1350. The decisions in these decades to crown male heirs of patrilineal ancestry over female and English contenders to the throne were soon to be elaborated into the Lex Salica, which established this practice as the standard. Based on the premise that politics construct gender, I postulate that it would have been necessary to articulate clearly demarcated gender roles in order to facilitate this means of succession. The texts under consideration promote normative gendered behavior and patrilineal primogeniture, a term I use to encompass both aspects of the advocated succession practice. This dissertation considers manuscript 60 to have functioned as a political tool that informed external relations with England while simultaneously policing women internally. Manuscript BN fr 60, I suggest, constituted a French appropriation of texts that were originally composed for the Anglo-Norman Plantagenet court at a key moment in Anglo-French history, occurring shortly before what we now term the outbreak of the Hundred Years War and at a time which witnessed a growing sense of proto-nationalism and progress toward a distinction between notions of "French" and "English", so intertwined and embroiled since William the Conqueror's victory in 1066.

Subject Area

Medieval literature|Romance literature|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Ranalli, Tina-Marie, "Gender, politics, and the book: The construction of a narrative of empire, Ms BN fr 60, ca. 1330" (2010). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3414194.