In This Article Jean Froissart

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies and Reference Articles
  • Essay Collections
  • Translations
  • Froissart in his Literary Context
  • Manuscripts and Illustrations
  • Patronage

Medieval Studies Jean Froissart
by
Kristen Mossler Figg
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0156

Introduction

Jean Froissart (b. c. 1337–d. c. 1404) is best known for his Chroniques, a monumental French-language prose narrative of almost 1.5 million words covering events during the first part of the Hundred Years’ War, from around 1326 to around 1400. With its four volumes and multiple redactions preserved in over 150 manuscript copies, it is hard to overestimate this work’s importance in the 15th century, when it was widely copied into beautifully illustrated luxury volumes, and it has served ever since as a primary source for understanding events of the 14th century. Although historians beginning in the 19th century criticized the work for its inaccuracies of fact and what was believed to be a blind devotion to the values of chivalry, the Chroniques is now widely appreciated for the author’s lively style, visual imagination, and subtlety of expression as he gradually grew aware of the inevitable disappearance of the chivalric world he set out to portray. Likewise, readers have come to acknowledge the artistry of Froissart’s other great body of work, his poetry, which includes four lyrico-narrative dits (Le Paradys d’Amour, L’Espinette amoureuse, La Prison amoureuse, and Le Joli Buisson de Jonece) in the style of his predecessor, Machaut; several shorter débats and dittiés (including a poem describing one of the first mechanical clocks); a large collection of independent fixed-form lyrics (thirteen lays amoureus, six chançons amoureuses, forty ballades, thirteen virelays, and 107 rondeaux); twenty pastourelles; and Méliador, an incomplete Arthurian verse romance of over 30,000 lines. Having traveled widely and served patrons in England, France, and the Low Countries, Froissart not only left behind a sophisticated body of literary work, building upon almost every available courtly genre, but he also remains notable for having been the first writer to compose historical accounts from personal interviews, creating a distinctive style full of dialogue and detail that remains entertaining and enlightening to this day.

General Overviews

There are few books or articles treating Froissart’s historical and literary production as a whole. Thus it is still worthwhile to look at the pioneering work of F. S. Shears (Shears 1930), who was the first to combine a biography of Froissart with an overview of his writing in all its various genres. Likewise, Bastin 1942 offers an introductory perspective on the author’s life and works, with some indications of what was, at that time, considered to have literary value. Although Dembowski 1978 treats only the poetry, Diller 1984 studies only the Chroniques, and Ainsworth 1990 focuses mainly on the Chroniques with some discussion of Méliador, all represent turning points in critical understanding of Froissart’s works. Taken together they mark a new recognition of Froissart’s complexity, paving the way for more comprehensive assessments of Froissart’s worldview and creative originality, represented in Zink 1998 and Schwarze 2003, as well as by most of the items in the section Essay Collections.

  • Ainsworth, Peter F. Jean Froissart and the Fabric of History: Truth, Myth, and Fiction in the Chroniques. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.

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    Examines the reading experience of Froissart’s Chroniques “as text” with perspectives on discourse and the problem of discerning truth. Argues that Froissart’s writing undergoes a “literary evolution” from conventional narration to “a mixture of voices, perspectives, echoes, and parallels” (p. 303) that creates ambiguity and moral tension within the work.

  • Bastin, Julia. Froissart: Chroniqueur, romancier et poète. Brussels: Office de Publicité, 1942.

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    This small volume, intended to celebrate Froissart’s connection to the provinces of Hainaut and Brabant, offers a biography and an appraisal that prefers the chronicles, lyrics, and Espinette to the other narrative poems. This commentary and the selections that follow provide insight into the basis of Froissart’s reputation before 1970.

  • Dembowski, Peter F. “La position de Froissart-poète dans l’histoire littéraire: bilan provisoire.” In Mélanges d’études romanes du moyen âge et de la renaissance offerts à Monsieur Jean Rychner. Edited by André Gendre, Charles-Théodore Gossen, and Georges Straka, 131–147. Strasbourg, France: Centre de philologie et de littératures romanes de l’Université de Strasbourg/Klinsieck, 1978.

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    This important article marks a turning point in Froissart studies. Scholars had previously treated the poetry dismissively, judging it by modern standards rather than considering it as an embodiment of an important set of traditions. Dembowski argues for examining the entire body of work as a theoretical system.

  • Diller, George T. Attitudes chevaleresques et réalités politiques chez Froissart. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1984.

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    Argues against established views of Froissart as a naïve reporter of events by showing, through close analysis of selected episodes, Froissart’s emphasis on causality and the complexity of his interpretations. Focuses particularly on the importance of transformations and additions in the work’s multiple redactions.

  • Schwarze, Michael. Generische Wahrheit—höfischer Polylog im Werk Jean Froissarts. Text und Kontext 19. Wiesbaden, Germany: Franz Steiner, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    A careful examination of all three dimensions of Froissart’s creative production—poetry, history, and romance—showing how Froissart transcends generic expectations in his attempt to use different modalities to search for a single truth informed by curialitas (the ethic of courtliness).

  • Shears, F. S. Froissart, Chronicler and Poet. London: Routledge, 1930.

    E-mail Citation »

    The earliest survey of Froissart’s life and entire literary production. Biography covers “early years” and contact with key patrons and personages, ending with the 1395 visit to England. The remainder of the book explores sources, cultural context, and poetry, relying heavily on quotations that provide a good introductory sampling of Froissart’s work.

  • Zink, Michel. Froissart et le temps. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1998.

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    This book studies the perception and expression of time in all of Froissart’s works. Focusing on Froissart as a storyteller, Zink builds a case for a body of work, both historical and poetic, that is rich and coherent in its blending of chronological and personal time, achieving unity in the collision of objective and subjective perspectives.

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