Forms of social and personal fulfilment and non-fulfilment in the Old French narrative lais
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The Old French narrative lais offer an image of the individual in terms of both social and personal relationships. This study considers the extent to which it is possible to derive definitions of forms of social and personal fulfilment and non-fulfilment from these texts. As well as being presented in isolation, they are shown in interaction; there can never be a total divorce of the personal desires of the individual from his/her rights and obligations in society. These two aspects of human existence - love and society - appear in the lais in a state of balance or imbalance. Even in those lais in which the characters themselves do not achieve a balance of social and personal fulfilment, the image of the ideal emerges. Consummate fulfilment in a relationship - be it feudal, familial, sexual - necessarily involves a fusion of social suitability and personal commitment. In his/her aspirations to and/or success in fulfilment, the individual appears variously in these texts both as a pawn of the forces of society or destiny and as endowed with the power to earn his/her own happiness. The degree of importance that the interaction between love and society has in the lais is, in particular, indicated through the extent to which these patterns of interaction define the patterns of narrative structure. From this study, conclusions can be drawn as to the historical reality of the individual in twelfth-century noble society in France; the lais offering a reflection of that society, of which they are a product, and also an expression of its ideals, which allow for the very real obstacles to a fusion of social and personal fulfilment to be overcome.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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