Uses of the past and political imagination in Burgundian literature (Boulogne / mer)

International meetig

Uses of the past and political imagination in Burgundian literature

Boulogne-sur-Mer, University Center of the Museum, 19-21 October 2022

Coastal Opal Coast University, UR 4030 HLLI

Organizers: Jean DEVAUX, Elena KOROLEVA, Grace BAILLET

This scientific event follows on from the international meetings devoted to Burgundy literature which have been held since 2005 at the Université Littoral Côte d’Opale. During the conference to be held in Boulogne-sur-Mer from October 19 to 21, 2022, the aim will be to explore the Burgundian political imagination and to reflect on the modalities and purposes of the appropriation of the past in literature. written at the court of Burgundy between the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 16th century. The corpus on which the analyzes will relate may extend to universal histories and regional chronicles retracing the history of the various Burgundian principalities, to epic, romantic and theatrical works as well as to texts relating to immediate history.

Lines of research

1) Exploit the great figures of the past

In Autumn of the Middle Ages (1919), Johan Huizinga already underlined the role played by “the cult of the hero” within the nobility of the last centuries of the Middle Ages: “The chivalrous life is an imitation; imitation of the heroes of Arthur’s cycle or ancient heroes, it doesn’t matter ”. The virtues of the prince being considered as the very foundation of good government, the literature written at the court of Burgundy could be considered from the angle of its exemplary dimension and its didactic scope. From this perspective, we will look at Burgundian works devoted to great figures of the past, including Alexandre, Girart de Roussillon, and Charlemagne, who offered the dukes and lords of their entourage models of chivalrous and princely behavior.

Beyond personal exemplarity, the characters of Greco-Roman Antiquity as well as those of national or local history also appear and above all as founding heroes. We think, for example, of the establishment of tournaments and chivalry by Alexander in the Perceforest or the founding of Western countries by Trojan survivors, the theme of numerous chronicles and compilations of ancient history written for the dukes and their heirs, such as the Flower of Stories by Jean Mansel and the Illustrations of Gaul and singularity of Troyes by Jean Lemaire de Belges. It is this political dimension conferred on the great figures of the past that will have to be detected within the framework of the conference. Contributions relating to founding stories incorporated into regional chronicles, such as the translation of the Chronographia by Jean de Beka, relating the history of the counties of Holland and Zeeland, or the Chronicles of Hainaut by Jean Wauquelin.

2) (Re) invent the past

According to Paul Ricoeur who analyzed the manipulations of memory practiced by those in power in chapter 2 of his essay Memory, history, oblivion, these are realized above all in the story, “the ideologization of memory [étant] made possible by the resources of variation offered by the work of narrative configuration ”. It will be necessary to examine the narrative choices of the authors of the court of Burgundy who reimagine the past according to the needs of the present moment. We will be interested in the process of transformation of the text at the end of the rewriting, translation and / or compilation operation carried out by the writers, by identifying the new elements introduced in relation to the sources and by asking ourselves to what extent the works literary works thus produced conform to ducal ideology and contribute to the development of the Burgundian political myth. By way of example, let us cite the creation, in the years 1440-1470, of a whole body of texts exploiting the journey of the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece, a theme whose success is directly linked to the activities of the Order of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip the Good in 1430. Other texts offering an image of the Greek world could be examined, such as the “literal” version of theHistoire d’Apollonius de Tyre, which, while remaining close to the Latin text, addresses political themes that may arouse the interest of readers of the cultural milieu of the court of Burgundy.

We will also study the discourse that writers hold on their own work of reappropriating the past in the introductory parts, in particular in the prologues, but also in comments scattered within their narrative. For example, it will be opportune to approach in this sense the corpus of prologues written by David Aubert for the works he transcribed for Duke Philippe le Bon.

3) Represent the past

Within the framework of this axis, it will be a question of questioning the role of representations of the past in the staging of power. Anxious to assert their political power, the Dukes of Burgundy sought to display it with ostentation. Various celebrations provided a favorable environment to display the splendours: “joyous entries” in the various cities of their territories; banquets and formal receptions; chapters of the Order of the Golden Fleece; festivities related to major family events, such as the marriage of Philip the Good and Isabella of Portugal (1430), important political events, such as the Congress of Arras (1435). Glorious figures and events from ancient history are often summoned to current historiography in order to mark these occasions and draw parallels between heroes of the past and representatives of the ducal dynasty. If several studies, in particular those of Marie-Thérèse Caron, have already been devoted to the famous Banquet of the Pheasant of 1454, this colloquium will offer the opportunity to examine on new costs the desserts of Jason staged during the banquet, in order to better understand their place in the cultural landscape of the time and their influence on literary production in the second half of the 15th century. It will also be possible to carry out studies on the Burgundian theatrical corpus, first of all on plays whose subject is drawn from “mythology”, such as Epitaphs of Hector and Achilles of George Chastelain, mounted during the Nevers festivities in 1454, but also on dialogues and debates involving illustrious figures of the past and destined to be played or at least recited, even if the exact circumstances of their stage production.

Finally, the contributions will be able to explore the text-image relationship in the illuminated manuscripts of the ducal library and the collections of lords belonging to the entourage of the dukes, in order to examine how representations of the past participate in the construction of the political imagination. Burgundy.


Communication proposals accompanied by an argument of ten lines and a brief curriculum vitae must be sent to the organizers before October 15, 2021:

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]


International scientific committee

Catherine GAULLIER-BOUGASSAS, Professor at the University of Lille

Jean-Claude MÜHLETHALER, Professor at the University of Lausanne

Anne SCHOYSMAN, Professor at the University of Siena

Graeme SMALL, Professor at Durham University



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.