Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Romance Languages

First Advisor

Scott Francis


This dissertation asks whether, by the end of the Middle Ages in France, the romance genre had gained literary authority, or auctoritas, and, if so, how it had gained it and what the social impact of this auctoritas was. This line of questioning is executed through a study of two mid-fifteenth-century romances: René d’Anjou’s Livre du Cuer d’Amours espris and Antoine de la Sale’s Jehan de Saintré. These two works, written near the end of the Middle Ages when romance was at the height of its popularity and influence, heavily imitate and cite earlier romances, and in so doing, offer an insightful response to the genre and its position in French courtly society. They confirm that while the genre may not have had a traditional scholarly auctoritas, it certainly had a level of courtly auctoritas, exemplified by the literary traditions of the Roman de la Rose and Prose Lancelot. These literary traditions exerted cultural auctoritas as they came to functional as behavioral and moral guides in the courtly disciplines of love and chivalry. Furthermore, this study argues that two principle writing strategies served to establish romance auctoritas despite the fictionality of the genre. The first, exemplified by the Roman de la Rose and imitated by the Livre du Cuer, was to present the romance’s fictions as allegory, with the argument that they covered hidden moral truths. The second, exemplified by the Prose Lancelot and imitated by Jehan de Saintré, was to deny the fictionality of the romance, and to instead present it was a work of historia. The two late-medieval works at the center of this study each employ one of these two romance strategies in an attempt to build their own auctoritas, even while criticizing the socially harmful influence of romance ideology. In so doing, they confirm the genre’s courtly auctoritas and reveal the strategies employed to achieve it.