Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022000, Thu, 15 Sep 2011 19:51:41 -0300

[NABOKOV-L] Triptych: from Umberto Eco towards E. Farral's "Les Arts poétiques"
Amateurish ramblings have led me into Medieval Aesthetics, now in a presentation by Umberto Eco. My attention was held by a reference to the literary construction of a "triptych" and, following Eco's indications, I reached two interesting sources, which I thought I can now bring up to our List's experts, or to those intent on exploring another link between medieval poetry and "Pale Fire."
We know (from Boyd's VN's RY, for example) that Nabokov studied French literature during his Cambridge studies and that he was interested in minstrels songs and tales of courtly love, in Chrétien de Troyes, in the Arthurian legend and Thomas Malory, traces of which may be found in RLSK and in Pale Fire. In the latter there's an incorrect spelling of "triptych" made by John Shade - and not by Charles Kinbote. In his commentary, Kinbote purpotedly marks the accents of a poem by Arnor* and dabbles in rhyme and reason.
I'd initially thought that the mispelling would be an editorial mishap, even though it has remained unaltered and constant in the three different editions that I examined today. Now, realizing that there might be a stylistic issue at stake with the word "triptych"**, I tend to believe that Nabokov left the mispelt word to Shade as a way to call the reader's attention to it.
Cf. Charles Kinbote ( line 80- my bedroom) wrote: "He awoke to find her standing with a comb in her hand before his - or rather, his grandfather's - cheval glass, a triptych of bottomless light, a really fantastic mirror, signed with a diamond by its maker, Sudarg of Bokay. She turned about before it: a secret device of reflection gathered an infinite number of nudes in its depths, garlands of girls in graceful and sorrowful groups, diminishing in the limpid distance, or breaking into individual nymphs, some of whom, she murmured, must resemble her ancestors when they were young - little peasant garlien combing their hair in shallow water as far as the eye could reach, and then the wistful mermaid from an old tale, and then nothing. "
and John Shade, emphasizing poetry, plays in connection to the spatial arrangement of rooms states, on lines 379/82, that: "the point is that the three/Chambers, then bound by you and her and me,/Now form a tryptich or a three-act play/ In which portrayed events forever stay."

In an article by J.P.Collas discussing the Romantic Hero in the Twelfth Century, there is a remark about Chrétien de Troyes's romance, Erec and Enide, and to Chrétien's stylistic creation of "the semblance of a triptych in two, if not three romances". From the model page in the internet, here is a short paragraph about it: "...to credit Chrétien with achieving at least the semblance of a triptych in two, if not three of his romances, he makes the very observation that must lead to a different approach. He remarks that at least down to the end of the premier vers, as marked by Chrétien himself, Erec resembles a lai; the narrative down to that point is self-contained. It mainly comprises two interlocked adventures, the cahse of the White Hart and the contest for the Sparrou-hawk. Each of these would have sufficed for a lai. They could well be combined, and prolonged by the story of the marriage of the lovers, without changing the genre [...] It should follow from this observation that Erec becomes a romance But the inference is not drawn, since it would involve making a distinction of substance between lai and romanc3e. By common consent the genres differ only in length;they are related entirely as the short story is related to the novel in modern literature. Edmond Faral, who was much concerned with the early developments of romance, saw no difference between the conte courtois and the roma courtois. The whole supposition was once explicitly formulated by Ernest Hoepffner, and Professor Frappier has recently assented to its terms..." The Romantic Hero of the Twelfth Century, p.85 Medieval Miscellany, Eugène Vinaver Manchester Univerxsity Press, 1965.
Medieval miscellany: presented to Eugène Vinaver - books.google.com.br/books?id=OAwNAQAAIAAJ...
Another entry, using google search, led me to "Poetria nova" (Vinsauf), by focusing on Edmond Faral* after taking a lead from Umberto Eco's "Arte e Bellezza Nell' Estetica Medievale" (1987, Milano, translated as "Arte e Beleza na Estética Medieval, 2010 Ed.Record,BR)in a chapter dedicated to proportion and rethoric. Here it is: "367 pp. The subject of this book is the Poetria nova of Geoffrey of Vinsauf, a 2000-line poem written at the beginning of the thirteenth century that teaches Latin verse composition according to rhetorical principles. It is one of several such works that were written beginning in the last third of the twelfth century: Matthew of Vendôme's Ars versificatoria, Geoffrey's Documentum de modo et arte dictandi et versificandi, Gervase of Melkley's Ars versificaria, John of Garland's Parisiana poetria, and Eberhard the German's Laborintus. The Poetria nova was far more popular than any of these other works, surviving in five times the number of manuscripts as any of the other artes poetriae. These treatises have been well known since the publication of Edmond Faral's Les arts poétiques du XIIe et du XIIIe siècle (Paris, 1924) and served collectively as the subject of a chapter in James J. Murphy's Rhetoric in the Middle Ages (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1974), but the sheer popularity of the Poetria nova has proved an impediment to the production of the monograph called for by its importance."

I hope that this collection of items about medieval poetry leads me not into sheer redundancies.

I'd love to hear more about this subject and I'll be thankful for specific bibliography relating Nabokov, minstrels, medieval poetry...

Thanks. JM

* (Fleur:) "Her fragile ankles, he said, which she placed very close together in her dainty and wavy walk, were the "careful jewels" in Arnor's poem about a miragarl ("mirage girl"), for which "a dream king in the sandy wastes of time would give three hundred camels and three fountains."

/ / / /
On sagaren werem tremkin tri stana
/ / / /
Verbalala wod gev ut tri phantana

(I have marked the stress accents).

** - From Wikipedia: A triptych ( /'tr?pt?k/ trip-tik; Greek: ????????, from tri- "three" + ptyche "fold") is a work of art (usually a panel painting) which is divided into three sections, or three carved panels which are hinged together and folded. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works. The middle panel is typically the largest and it is flanked by two smaller related works, although there are triptychs of equal-sized panels.While the root of the word is the ancient Greek "triptychos", the word arose into the medieval period from the name for an Ancient Roman writing tablet, which had two hinged panels flanking a central one. The form can also be used for pendant jewelry.

*** - Edmond Faral (1882-1958) was a French medievalist. He became in 1924 Professor of Latin literature at the Collège de France.
He wrote his dissertation on the jongleurs, and E. R. Curtius states that he was the first to recognize an influence of the medieval Latin poetics and rhetoric on Old French poetry[1]. He was appointed to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1936.(wikipedia)

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