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Truth and the Heretic

Crises of Knowledge in Medieval French Literature

In the Middle Ages, the heretic, more than any other social or religious deviant, was experienced as an imaginary construct. Everyone believed heretics existed, but no one believed himself or herself to be a heretic, even if condemned as such by representatives of the Catholic Church. Those accused of heresy, meanwhile, maintained that they were the good Christians and their accusers were the false ones.

Exploring the figure of the heretic in Catholic writings of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as well as the heretic’s characterological counterpart in troubadour lyrics, Arthurian romance, and comic tales, Truth and the Heretic seeks to understand why French literature of the period celebrated the very characters who were so persecuted in society at large. Karen Sullivan proposes that such literature allowed medieval culture a means by which to express truths about heretics and the epistemological anxieties they aroused. 
The first book-length study of the figure of the heretic in medieval French literature, Truth and the Heretic explores the relation between orthodoxy and deviance, authority and innovation, and will fascinate historians of ideas and literature as well as scholars of religion, critical theory, and philosophy.

288 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2005

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Medieval Studies

Religion: Christianity, Religion and Literature


"Fascinating, insightful, and highly provocative. . . . Literary analysis sheds important light on fundamental epistemological questions, whether we consider hereticism as the basis upon which these texts were built, or whether we simply accept the criticism voiced in them at face value."

Albrecht Classen | Mediaevistik

"An intelligent, provocative, and well-written book. It comes as an answer to the challenge to historiography . . . what if history is shaped primarily by the things that cannot be spoken of?"

Sarah Kay | Speculum

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
1. The Half-Opened Door, the Lowered Hood, the Smile: Béatris de Planissoles and the Heretics of Montaillou
2. A Garden of Holy Companionship: The Secrecy of the "Manichaeans" and Cathars
3. A Garden, Locked and Fortified: Heresy, Secrecy, and Troubadour Lyric
4. The Stoning of Lady Guirauda: The Singularity of Noble Heretics
5. The Ropes Cutting into Iseut’s Wrists: Heresy, Singularity, and the Romance of Tristan
6. Proteus Teaching in the Fields: The Duplicity of the Waldensians
7. The Heretic in the Poultry Yard: Heresy, Duplicity, and Medieval Comic Tales
Selected Bibliography


Modern Language Association: MLA Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies

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