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The Lais of Marie de France Paperback – May 1, 1995


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The Lais of Marie de France + Arthurian Romances (Penguin Classics) + The Canterbury Tales
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books; 1st edition (May 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080102031X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801020315
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
5 star
56%
4 star
33%
3 star
11%
2 star
0%
1 star
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See all 9 customer reviews
The format of this edition worked well.
Marget Lippincott
This multiple framing of story within author commentary within modern commentary gives the reader great richness and depth.
Harrington B Laufman
I recommend this book and hope a great translation will come soon.
Tony Marquise Jr.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Harrington B Laufman on October 1, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Hanning and Ferrante edition of Marie de France's lais is satisfying on two levels. First, the translation and commentary are unsurpassed. Second, the twelve short tales are gems themselves.

Translation of poetry from one modern language to another is difficult, let alone from Anglo-Norman French to modern English. This edition manages it beautifully. Abandoning the original's octosyllabic couplets for free verse, the brevity and simplicity of the verse are preserved.

An introduction sets the lais in place and time. Essentially nothing is known of Marie de France personally, so the introduction centers on the history, culture, and language of the 12th century. Modest footnotes supplement the text, but the strongest editorial contributions are the commentaries that follow each lai. While not completely necessary to an understanding of the stories, which can stand on their own, the commentary definitely enriches one's experience of these old Celtic/Breton tales.

Marie herself offers commentary on the tales as a whole in a Prologue, and frequently with a short statement at the beginning of an individual lai. This multiple framing of story within author commentary within modern commentary gives the reader great richness and depth. Marie's short but dense prologue offers philosophy and theory of writing that is still being reinterpreted.

The lais themselves are self contained and unconnected in plot, but typically involve a chilvaric episode or a courtly love situation, and a complication. The narrative moves quickly. These are not dull and laborious love stories, but adventures. In fact much is made in the critical world of the word "aventure" which translates as chance and luck as well as adventure.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jan Dierckx on August 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
Before the famous Italian Renaissance, you could speak of a French Renaissance in the 12th century as far as literature is concerned.
In Southern France there were the Troubadours, singers and poets, often part of the nobility or their entourage. In the North of France you had Chretien de Troyes and his Arthurian romances and the Lais of Marie de France, to name only two of the most important.
The 'Roman de la Rose' was written in the 13th cent. but is probably the most important masterwork of the French Renaissance.

About the person of Marie de France almost nothing is known for certain.Her 'Lais' - stories about romance or adventure - are based upon the popular and folkloristic tales that already existed for centuries in Bretagne - a region close to where the Atlantic meets the North-Sea.
These stories were handed down from generation to generation by story tellers.
The Lais of Marie de France excel by diversity. There are love stories - of course - but also vivid descriptions of
tournaments and even a story about a werewolf.
Marie de France proofs that medieval literature can be entertaining.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
I love the book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is translated, edited, and introduced by two professors from Columbia University with impeccable credentials and should be a pretty straightforward presentation retaining the intent of Marie in writing the Lais. Purchase it for your liibrary, I do not believe you will be disappointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marget Lippincott on December 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The format of this edition worked well. The original old French (Picardy) is on one page and modern English on the other. After each tale is an excellent literary discussion. It fortifies the reader's understanding of the Laie just read. This was an academic edition that is great reading for any modern reader. The tales all involve the strange rules of Bretton mystery.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Pooski on November 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
There is a moment in your life when you read Nietzche for the first time and you realize that all the existentialist and "deep" books you've been reading in college were based upon his philosophy. Or when you first hear New York Dolls and you hear echoes of both punk and heavy metal and realize that this was the first band to use this sound. This book is like Nietzche and The New York Dolls for every medieval tale and every story you've ever written involving knights and true love.

Some of these stories play the tropes straight. The lovers are brought together by means of a magic boat. The cuckolded husband is an old man who couldn't possibly love the woman who is being romanced by the knight. Other stories subvert expecations as the characters start off as romantics but show themselves to be selfish and nasty. I particularly liked Bisclarvet where a woman is troubled by her husband's disappearances. As soon as she finds out that he is a werewolf, she turns on him and steals his clothing. Her lover comes and takes over the castle. The cuckolded werewolf sidles up to a noble lord and merely waits his turn to bite off his wife's nose.

These are very exaggerated tales and these characters aren't "real" but their hyperreality makes them all the more intriguing. In Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, Klosterman talked about how Saved by the Bell is a show where the characters are so exaggerated that you know someone that is kind of like each and every one of them. That's the style of this book and even if you prefer three dimensional characters or flat characters that are written like today's heroes (James Bond, etc.) this is a fine addition to anyone's bookshelf.
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