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Conversation and Storytelling in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century French «Nouvelles»

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Kathleen Loysen

This book focuses on the role of represented speech in four short story collections from fifteenth- and sixteenth-century France: the anonymous Evangiles des quenouilles; Martial d’Auvergne’s Arrêts d’Amour; Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptaméron; and Noël Du Fail’s Propos rustiques. As a study of the narrative staging of the acts of storytelling and conversing, it raises issues of orality, aurality, and literacy, as well as of the processes of textual production, transmission, and reception. In addition, the conversational frame of these short story collections deliberately sets up questions about the accessibility and reliability of truth. While these collections claim to enter upon the path toward universal truth, the difficulty of such an enterprise is revealed through their very narrative structure, where the polyphony of opposing voices and divergent opinions is engaged by the very acts of conversation and storytelling themselves.