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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Luke Sunderland

Sunderland, Luke. (2008). Le Cycle de Renart: From the Enfances to the Jugement in a Cyclical Roman de Renart Manuscript. French Studies 62(1): 1-12.

Author(s) from Durham


This article is a reading of a Roman de Renart manuscript from the often neglected gamma family, which subsumes the narrative to a broadly biographical (or cyclical) framework. The manuscript studied here therefore opens with an Enfances text, which lays the ground for seeing the fox as a radically evil creation, and his crimes as inevitable repetitions of his evil propensities. Whereas the alpha and beta families open with the famous trial (Le Jugement de Renart), the gamma family locates it later, after a series of misdeeds by the fox, meaning that this episode now serves less as an attempt to punish Renart for a single sexual crime than to mark the impossibility of holding him to justice for anything he has done. Using an approach to repetition deriving from Lacanian theory, the author argues that the Jugement, itself now a rerun of a previous trial, represents the community's failure to confront the Renardian trauma that haunts it, and, by extension, its inability to function effectively. Thwarting the ideological closure of justice allows Renart to become an emblem of the fiction itself.