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Dreaming the (un)divided nation
Alain Chartier’s allegorical oneiropolitics

Seeking to avert the ruin of a France threatened by international and civil conflict during the Hundred Years War, Alain Chartier’s Middle French Quadrilogue invectif (1422) mobilises the form of the literary dream vision and the poetics of personification allegory as instruments of historical representation and polemical critique. The scourge of faction, stemming from a general failure by all of the members of the body politic either to understand or to feel the essential truth of their unity and the community of interest it entails, is at once made visible and vigorously denounced, both verbally and performatively, in a vitriolic debate between personifications of ‘France’ and the three estates. By staging dissension among these characters, Chartier aims to remedy it in his readers, modelling a powerful affective investment in the common good and mediating the individual political subject’s self-insertion into multiple conceptual formations of collective identity. Even while boldly asserting dream allegory’s potential to reshape the political consciousness of the realm, however, the Quadrilogue reflects and implicitly reflects on the inevitable artificiality of allegorical oneiropolitics, a necessarily artful constructedness that Chartier’s rhetorical tropes ultimately share with the very figure of the perfectly unified polity that is insistently naturalised throughout his text.

The French literary history of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is witness to a striking and novel convergence of poetry and politics. Mobilised by the materially devastating and ideologically traumatic conflicts of the Hundred Years War, the Papal Schism and the Armagnac-Burgundian civil war, a ‘génération d’écrivains “embarqués”[generation of ‘committed’ writers]1 not only bemoans and satirises the troubles of the age, but strives to correct the course of current political, moral and spiritual affairs through textual interventions that bring theoretical and sapiential discourses explicitly to bear on contemporary crises. Along with their patriotic fervour and reformist bent, many of these writers share an interest in exploring the possibilities of a new textual mode: the songe politique, which recruits the form of the literary dream vision and the poetics of personification allegory as instruments of historical representation and polemical critique.2 Songes politiques were produced both by the luminaries of late medieval letters – Philippe de Mézières’s Songe du Viel Pelerin (1389), Christine de Pizan’s Livre de l’advision Cristine (1405) and Alain Chartier’s Quadrilogue invectif (1422) are among the best-known works of their kind – and by less illustrious contemporaries including Honoré Bovet, author of the Apparicion maistre Jehan de Meun (1398); Évrart de Trémaugon, who may have translated the Songe du vergier (1378) from his own original Latin Somnium viridarii (1376); Henri de Ferrières, putative author of the Songe de pestilence (1379); and the anonymous author of the Songe veritable (1406).3

Oneiric frames and oneiric forms offer powerful and versatile tools to political writers working in the service of diverse agendas, on different scales, and with varying levels of rhetorical sophistication and dramatic flair. The invocation of the dream, with its potentially revelatory but also epistemologically dubious character, at the origin of the text is a simultaneously defensive and self-authorising gesture useful to authors whose criticism of their contemporaries, particularly those in power, can be as delicate as it is urgent. According to the late-fourteenth-century Livre des eschez amoureux moralisés attributed to Évrart de Conty, the fiction of the reported rather than invented vision builds plausible deniability into potentially dangerous discourse,

car le songe excuse la personne qui parle aucunesfoiz de moult de choses qui seroient tenues pour mal dites, qui les diroit ainsi estre avenues ou vrayes a la lectre, pour ce que on peut excuser le songant et respondre tousdiz que ainsi ly sembloit il en son dormant, et que on s’en prengne au songe.

[for the dream sometimes exculpates the person who speaks about many things that would be considered wrong if they were said to have happened just so or to be literally true, because one can exonerate the dreamer by replying in each case that this is how things appeared to him in his sleep, and that the dream should be held responsible.]4

The Songe du vergier concludes its lengthy dialogue on the relationship between ecclesiastical and secular authorities by pre-empting any accusations of ideological impropriety in precisely this way, stressing that ‘la fragilité et le petit entandement et l’ygnorance du songent’ [the fallibility, limited understanding and ignorance of the dreamer] require him simply to transmit unaltered the dream’s commentary on ‘matieres tres hautes, tres soubtilles et tres parfondes, et tres perilleusez a paller’ [very lofty, abstruse and profound matters, which are very dangerous to discuss] to the king for his enlightened evaluation and judgement, despite the dreamer’s ‘grant doubte et grant paour’ [great concern and fear] that some of its propositions might offend either the sovereign or the Church.5 The technique of prosopopoeia likewise safeguards the author by distancing him from the content of his text, fragmenting his ideas and voice, and distributing them to a cast of allegorical mouthpieces who speak for themselves, often performing their own significations or natures, and none of whose partial perspectives or individual, polemical arguments can easily be conflated with the viewpoint espoused by the text as a whole. On the other hand, ostensibly truth-telling, monitory dreams resonate with the authority of their classical and biblical antecedents and invest the songes’ inscribed author-narrators with some of the gravitas and the righteous moral prerogative of kings made supernaturally privy to the fate of nations, saints mandated to illuminate the faithful, or Old Testament prophets castigating their wayward tribes. Christine de Pizan’s Advision Cristine, for example, opens with a rather immodest modesty topos that places Christine-narrator, if not Christine-author, in an elite company of prophetic dreamers:

mes sens liez par la pesanteur de somme, me survenist merveilleuse advision en signe d’estrange presage, tout ne soie mie Nabugodonozor, Scipion ne Joseph, ne sont point veez les secrez du Tres Hault aux bien simples.

[while my senses were bound by the heaviness of sleep, an extraordinary vision came to me as the sign of a strange portent, for although I am no Nebuchadnezzar, Scipio or Joseph, the secrets of the Most High are not forbidden to the truly simple.]6

The most effective songes, however, use dream allegory not only as an authorising or apologetic pretext for free-standing disquisitions on sensitive topics, but as an integral part of their political programmes, articulating their conceptual thinking through the structures of the oneiric system and expressing it in intellectually and emotionally compelling forms specific to the allegorical mode. Rather than concealing or ‘veiling’ truth or limiting its accessibility to an exegetically skilled elite, as the ‘allegory of the poets’ (figured as fabula, integumentum or involucrum)7 was traditionally held to do, the allegory of the songes, which neither demands nor promises any process of decoding, serves to produce and publicise a knowledge that solicits readers’ immediate, concrete response. The political poetics of the activist songe are at once representatively performed and implicitly theorised in the ambitious Quadrilogue invectif, written during one of the grimmest moments in France’s Hundred Years War by Alain Chartier, a career administrator, diplomat and vocal Valois loyalist as well as a prolific, well-respected author in verse and prose.8 In a context of profoundly destabilising, disorienting political and social turmoil, Chartier’s allegorical fiction exploits its peculiar blend of abstraction and concreteness to stage and voice a kind of dialogue impossible in the real world and yet necessary to it, allowing for the renegotiation of the relationships between political theories and ideological constructs, on the one hand, and empirical formations of social and political identity and practice, on the other.

Chartier takes up his pen between 12 April and 31 August 1422, as the embattled realm ‘entre destruction et ressource chancelle douloureusement’ [totters torturously between destruction and deliverance] under the combined pressure of ‘la puissance et diligence des ennemis, la desloiauté de pluseurs subgiez’ [the power and assiduity of its enemies, the disloyalty of many of its subjects] – that is, those who accepted the Treaty of Troyes concluded in 1420 between the intermittently mad King Charles VI and King Henry V of England, disinheriting the Dauphin Charles VII in favour of the English line – ‘et la perte des princes et chevalerie dont Dieu, par maleureuse bataille’ [and the loss of the princes and knights of whom God has, through misfortune in battle] – Chartier recalls, among other defeats, the disaster at Agincourt in 1415 – ‘a laissié ce royaume desgarny’ [left this kingdom deprived].9 Although he initially frames France’s woes as a form of divine punishment intended to drive inveterate sinners back onto the path of moral and spiritual virtue, invoking Isaiah as a model for the heavy-hearted but clear-eyed ‘prophetic’ exhortation that he will address to his delinquent countrymen,10 the problems with which the Quadrilogue is concerned and the solutions it seeks are both primarily political. In a bid to help avert national ruin, the text accordingly deploys the resources of the songe politique to diagnose and represent the origins of France’s predicament as fundamentally neither military not material, but rather ideological. The scourge of faction, stemming from a general failure by all of the members of the body politic either to understand or to feel the essential truth of their unity and the community of interest it entails, is at once made visible and vigorously denounced, both verbally and performatively, in a vitriolic debate between personifications of ‘France’ and the three estates, called ‘Le Peuple’ [The People], ‘Le Chevalier’ [The Knight] and ‘Le Clergié’ [The Clergy].11 By staging dissension among these characters, Chartier aims to remedy it in his readers. Even while boldly asserting dream allegory’s potential to reshape the political consciousness of the realm, however, the Quadrilogue reflects and implicitly reflects on the inevitable artificiality of allegorical oneiropolitics, a necessary artificiality or artful constructedness that Chartier’s rhetorical tropes ultimately share with the very figure of the perfectly unified polity that is insistently naturalised throughout his text.

As its title suggests, the Quadrilogue invectif takes the form of a prose conversation between four speakers, although the text features five voices including that of ‘L’Acteur’, the inscribed author-narrator-scriptor-dreamer who speaks only to the reader, or six counting that of the paratextual ‘Alain Charretier, humble secretaire du roy nostre sire et de mon tresredoubté seigneur monseigneur le regent, lointaing immitateur des orateurs’ [Alain Chartier, humble secretary to our lord the king and to my revered lord, the lord regent, and distant emulator of the orators] (3.4–6), whose prologue introduces the Quadrilogue proper.12 ‘Invective’ in the sense that it consists of accusatory, polemical discourses, the text has the trappings of a kind of closet drama, but does not really strive for a genuinely dialogic quality, let alone theatrical dynamism. It unfolds in lengthy speeches whose alternation, marked by the rubrics that also identify each character by name, is structured by the logic of exposition, rebuttal and counter-exposition rather than by any kind of non-verbal interaction between the characters and their environment.

The remarkably static allegory is restricted to a single tableau laid out by the Acteur, who recounts his dream in the past tense.13 In the middle of a field, struggling to prevent the collapse of a fine but severely damaged palace, stands a noble-looking but grief-stricken lady wearing a crooked crown and a marvellous mantle divided horizontally into three sections decorated respectively, from top to bottom, with fleurs-de-lis and other royal heraldry; letters, characters and figures associated with various branches of knowledge; and images of livestock, plants, fruit and grain, all of them now dirtied, disordered and partially destroyed. Nearby, she notices ‘trois de ses enfans’ [three of her children] (14.2): an armoured man leaning on his axe in a frightened reverie, a man in a long robe seated off to one side silently listening, and a debilitated peasant lying on the ground, moaning plaintively. Indignant at their inaction, the lady, France, castigates them for their ‘oiseuse lacheté’ [lazy cowardice] (14.8) and urges them both to help her shore up the leaning palace and, leaving the allegorical setting behind, to succour her in the historical context of the Hundred Years War. The peasant, Peuple, and the armed man, Chevalier, then give two alternating responses apiece in which they proclaim their own innocence and blame their own and France’s problems on each other. Soldiers, Peuple complains, are neglecting the war against England while unjustly robbing and oppressing their own suffering civilian countrymen, sometimes driving them to mutiny; civilians, Chevalier retorts, are a greedy and seditious lot who chafe under the yoke of legitimate authority and baulk at fulfilling their responsibilities by obediently generating wealth and resources for use by the armed forces.14 Next, the robed figure, Clergié, intervenes to point out the futility of his brothers’ mutual recriminations and expound his own understanding of what France needs to better its situation, namely a renewal of ‘savance, chevance et obeissance’ [knowledge, resources and obedience] (58.13–14), reframing some of Peuple’s and Chevalier’s points in a much less vituperative tone. After Chevalier’s brief, defensive rebuttal, France steps in to put an end to the debate and command the Acteur to write down everything he has heard so that others may read and learn from it.

The minimalism of the Quadrilogue’s allegorical system, which it shares with many other songes politiques, might seem to suggest limited reliance on a rhetorical conceit that provides a convenient pretext for exploring different sides of a political problem more than it contributes materially to the text’s conceptual work. Indeed, Chartier himself broaches similar issues and ideas elsewhere without recourse to allegory. His Debat du herault, du vassault et du villain (c.1421–22), for instance, anticipates some of the Quadrilogue’s invective barbs in a brief verse exchange between an aged, honourable herald of arms, a degenerate young nobleman and a peasant who are certainly social types, but not personifications; the Latin treatise Ad detestacionem belli gallici et suasionem pacis (c.1422–23), written shortly after Henry V’s death, condemns civil conflict and the pride, self-seeking and softness that underlie it and addresses individual admonitions to the different strata of society much as the Quadrilogue does; the Latin Dialogus familiaris amici et sodalis super deploracione gallice calamitatis (c.1426–27) revives many of the Quadrilogue’s themes in a lively conversation between a hopeful Friend and his more pessimistic Companion on the pervasive problem of moral decay and the tensions between public and private interests, bellicosity and pacifism; and the Lay de paix (c.1415–26) addresses to the squabbling princes of France a conciliatory lyric message ‘d’amour et d’unité’ [of love and unity], or, in other manuscripts, ‘d’amité’ [friendship].15 On the other hand, however, the very attenuation of the Quadrilogue’s allegoricity, the apparently gratuitous and dispensable quality of the debate’s oneiric frame, makes it all the more interesting that Chartier chooses to invoke the dream-vision model at all. It matters that what could easily have been a satirical and polemical work in a single authorial voice – the voice that already converges in many respects with that of Clergié, and that lends its rhetorical polish, Latinate periods and arsenal of learned biblical and classical references to the other characters as well – is instead presented as a dialogical juxtaposition of various voices, perspectives and ideas belonging to characters with sociopolitically differentiated identities.16

It certainly matters to the late-medieval illuminators of the Quadrilogue. Camille Serchuk’s survey of all thirty-two surviving illuminated manuscripts containing texts by Chartier demonstrates that illustrators ‘regularly emphasized the structure of the text over its content’, representing the multiple speakers (including ‘Alain Chartier’ himself) whose distinctive voices define his frequently polyphonic texts rather than trying to evoke the substance of their interventions, less for reasons of convention or convenience than because ‘focus on the speakers highlighted what was distinct about Chartier’s work’.17 The images that accompany the Quadrilogue in twelve out of fifty-one manuscripts (making it Chartier’s most frequently illustrated text) exemplify this tendency. Although there is some variation in the selection, combination and composition of represented figures and details, no image pictures any of the colourful evocations of peasant suffering, the travails of war or exemplary governance that abound in the estates’ disquisitions. It seems logical for a manuscript like Paris, BnF MS fr. 24441, which devotes only two miniatures to the Quadrilogue, to give preferential treatment to the production and presentation of the work (fol. 2r) and to the allegorical tableau laid out in the Acteur’s frame narrative (fol. 5v), or for the text’s single frontispiece in Paris, BnF MS fr. 126 to compress both scenes into a single, densely packed visual space (fol. 191r). More extensively illustrated manuscripts, however, opt to accentuate the identities of the speakers and the transitions between speeches at the price of extreme repetitiveness in both composition and content. For example, Paris, BnF MS fr. 19127 follows up an opening image of France in her relatively elaborately rendered palace (fol 9v) with no less than seven nearly interchangeable views (fols 19r, 24v, 35v, 39r, 43r, 60v, 63r) of the four personifications clustered together in a drab architectural interior, listening to the orator of the moment. These manuscripts’ pictorial interpretations of Chartier’s quadriloquium call attention to its status as a genuine, albeit allegorically contrived, colloquy: a gathering for discussion, an oral exchange between a group of distinct speakers situated together in space.

In grappling with the significance of late medieval didactic poetry’s predilection for allegorical settings, Sarah Kay describes an ‘urge to “place” thought’ in allegorical landscapes or loci serving, among other things, physically to ‘group together sets of characters’ representative of different discursive positions or perspectives ‘and thereby to situate the text’s argument in an identifiably common ground’. This common ground or locus communis tends both to ‘assume a degree of homogeneity and … to impose one’, and thus ‘anticipates the moral or intellectual consensus that the text sets out to forge’, serving in this sense as one strategy by which initially or apparently dialogic texts strive toward ‘monologism, or the convergence of discourses in unity’, albeit in inevitably complicated and problematic manners.18 Although Kay does not address her model’s potential applicability to political texts, her account of dialogical thought’s figurative emplacement as a means of fabricating and retrojecting the always already essential ‘truth’ of a monological consensus corresponds closely to the way allegory operates in the Quadrilogue invectif.

Before experiencing the dream vision that he goes on to narrate, Chartier’s Acteur starts awake at dawn and begins to fret over the dire straits in which France finds itself, recounting how ‘me vint en ymaginacion la douloureuse fortune et le piteux estat de la haulte seigneurie et glorieuse maison de France’ [I began to picture the wretched misfortune and pitiful state of the noble dominion and glorious house of France] (8.25–9.2). He then runs over in his mind – ‘je recueillisse en ma souvenance’ [I mustered in my memory] (9.4–5) – the negative factors contributing to the kingdom’s looming demise, weighing them against the positives that still make its salvation possible. ‘Aprés lesquelz partis ainsi debatuz a par moy’ [After thus debating these opposing positions by myself] (9.16–17), he concludes that the French people as a whole has invited and prolonged its miseries, handing an unearned victory to the English by neglecting rational judgement, letting patriotic zeal peter out, and squandering opportunities to make bold, disciplined, efficient use of its God-given resources and capacities. It is ‘tandiz que en ce debat entre espoir et desesperance mon entendement traveilloit’ [while my mind struggled in this debate between hope and despair] that the Acteur finally nods off again into a light morning doze and his dream begins (10.4–5).19 In some respects, the Acteur’s waking reflections are a mirror image of the dream they obviously generate. His reference to ymaginacion suggests the specifically imagistic quality of the allegorical scenario; the pros and cons of France’s position that he mulls over condense some of the points that the allegorical personifications will make; and his repeated characterisation of his internal thought process as a debate anticipates the ‘invective’ format of the oneiric exchange.20 However, the Acteur’s dream does not simply replay his worried musings. Rather, it improves upon them, seeking a way past the deadlocked simultaneity of despair and hope through the transformation of his solitary, inconclusive, useless ‘debate’ about how a shared predicament might and should be escaped into a public, genuinely dialogic, potentially fruitful conversation.

If, as the Acteur (following the lead of ‘Alain Charretier’ in the prologue) stresses, the problem at hand concerns a collective national nous, and its remedy lies in ‘our’ overcoming of the blinkered selfishness and partisanship that desensitise us to the intellectual and affective underpinnings of our collective identity and interests, then no individual can solve it alone.21 The technique of prosopopoeia expresses the division afflicting France by embodying its distinct and very much ‘partial’ parts while also reducing those parts to a manageable set and endowing them with coherent identities, presences and voices that equip them for cogent self-expression and meaningful interaction; the space of the dream-world gives the antagonistic and more conciliatory allegorical persons who constitute the kingdom a place in which to come together and argue toward a rapprochement. The oneiric scenario thus promises a means of passage from the sterile singularity of the Acteur’s consciousness to the fertile unity of a national plurality, from soliloquy through dialogue to political monologism. Chartier’s political dream begins as a dream of what the scene of politics might be, or of the political beyond or before politics, what left Heideggerian theorists, notably Jean-Luc Nancy, have called le politique as distinct from la politique. Where la politique is the strategic, partisan exercise of power through administrative or policy-making activity, the domain of ‘the play of forces and interests engaged in a conflict over the representation and governance of social existence’, le politique, which politics often obscures, names the essence of political being-together, ‘the site where what it means to be in common is open to definition’.22 This conceptual ‘site’ is a kind of originary space – Nancy shares with late-medieval philosophical poets a liking for spatial metaphors – for the emergence and the thinking of community, not as a hypostatised ‘thing’ or subject in its own right, but as a relation between subjects whom it unites but does not subsume. In Chartier’s Quadrilogue, the space of le politique might be mapped onto the derelict ‘païs en fresche’ [fallow field] (10.9; see also 29.21), in which France and her ‘children’ stand, a presently uncultivated but potentially fertile ground of elemental fellowship that allows for an interrogation of the conditions and stakes of their communal relation.

Without being divinatory in a traditional sense, then, the Quadrilogue’s dream does aspire to a kind of meaning that is less informational than efficacious. This aim is reflected in Chartier’s diegetic positioning of his Acteur’s dream narrative between several categories of oneiric experience as distinguished by medieval dream theory. Although early-morning dreams could be understood as ‘most likely to be true, since they occurred after the completion of digestive processes thought to distort the clarity of dream images’,23 the vision born of the Acteur’s matutinal anxiety initially bears the hallmarks of the Macrobian insomnium, the mundane kind of dream stemming from waking activities and preoccupations or from different kinds of physiological and psychological disorder and therefore devoid of higher significance or truth-content. By projecting the Acteur’s psychosomatic distress onto the anthropomorphic body politic and visualising it as that of personified Lady France, though, the dream attains the allegoricity typical of the ambiguous but truth-telling somnium, and by having this character communicate authoritatively and veridically with the dreamer about historical reality in literal terms, it comes to resemble the highest form of revelatory dream, the oraculum. As befits a political rather than spiritual or philosophical revelation, however, this dream summons an authority figure – no god, but a political ‘higher power’ – who does not foretell coming events so much as clarify the stakes of present (in)action, exposing precisely the indeterminacy of a future still being shaped, which both allows for and demands decisive human intervention to set it on a positive course.24 The structuring conceit of the songe politique thus complements and prepares for the Quadrilogue’s explicit thematic development, within and across the characters’ speeches, of an urgent call for solidarity issuing in concerted action. Enjoining the French to recognise the fundamental bond that already, necessarily knits together their country’s component parts, this appeal deploys three interrelated discursive strategies: the ‘naturalization of the political’,25 the promulgation of an expansive and inclusive concept of national community, and the articulation of an affective politics based on twinned appeals to ‘natural’ and more ethically or socially prescribed forms of emotional attachment to the polity.26

The role of nature or Nature as guarantor of human political systems is expounded primarily by France at the beginning of her angry opening address. The failure of her ‘sons’ to render her aid, she accuses, is a symptom of thoroughgoing deviancy or decadence that marks them as ‘desnaturez’ [denatured] (16.1), untrue to their essential identities as defined by God-given reason, normative gender performance, moral or ethical values and the ontology of lineage as well as by political duty. Lady France prescribes a kind of primal nationalism to which she attributes the force of ‘natural law’:27

aprés le lien de foy catholique, Nature vous a devant toute autre chose obligiez au commun salut du pays de vostre nativité et a la defense de ceste seigneurie soubz laquelle Dieu vous a fait naistre et avoir vie … Et puis que tele est la loy que Nature y a establie, il fault dire que nul labour ne vous doit estre grief … pour celui pays et seigneurie sauver. (15.4–24)

[after the bond of the Catholic faith, Nature has obligated you before all else to serve the common well-being of your native land and to defend this dominion under which God has caused you to be born and to live … And since such is the law that Nature has established there, it must be said that no labour should seem arduous to you … in order to save that country and dominion.]

As Daisy Delogu has shown, Chartier’s conspicuously gendered, ‘maternalized figure of France’ is positioned to make particularly effective use of the rhetoric of ‘natural’ obligations associated with the place of one’s birth in order ‘to describe and prescribe the moral, social, and political relationships among people, lands, and leaders’. In the historical context of a crisis of governance, territorial integrity and sovereign autonomy, the painstakingly visualised, eloquent lady named ‘France’ also ‘supplants the problematic figure of the real king’, whether mad or disinherited, by making herself, as both person and spatially ‘bounded and autonomous’ realm or nation, ‘the focal point for the obedience, loyalty, and love of the French people’.28 Personification reassuringly pre-empts the conceptual question of what exactly ‘France’ is and with what authority it speaks, even as the character herself subtly reconceives the feudal kingdom as something like a nation in the modern sense of the word, a conflation of territory, population and state.29 This abstract entity gathers under its aegis a human collectivity of French subjects that the Quadrilogue goes on to configure in a strikingly even-handed fashion, emphasising all three estates’ complementary and equally essential, if not equally authoritative, roles in the constitution of the political whole, and pointedly treating the often silenced peuple as a legitimate participant in political life and discourse.30

Although the text allegorically visualises the distinct physical bodies of the three estates, its dominant discourse insistently inscribes their unity, working to demonstrate that they are all in the struggle for France together and must cooperate in the service of a common good that is congruent with enlightened self-interest, but ultimately driven by a powerful affective investment in what Chartier, borrowing the language of republican Roman civic virtue, calls the chose publique and its welfare, the bien publique or bien commun.31 As the Acteur puts it, the French populace as a whole has behaved as its own worst enemy, hamstringing its war effort by failing to understand that ‘noz parciaulx desirs refroident l’affection publique’ [our partial desires put a chill on care for public affairs] (9.23–4) and sap the strength of the realm. Clergié, the most persuasive spokesman for national unity among the personified estates, reiterates later that ‘sommes persecutez des divisions dedens et dehors’ [we are persecuted by division inside and out] (56.10–11) almost more grievously than by foreign assailants. All of the characters concur in stigmatising selfish or narrowly partisan thinking and especially feeling, ‘privee affection’ [private affection] (66.18) or ‘particulieres affections’ [individual affections] (35.8–9), at the personal and the estate levels.32 (Chartier’s own partisan support for the house of Valois, announced in the opening sentence of his prologue, is above criticism on these grounds because his preferred royal line is that of the realm’s ‘prince droiturier et seigneur naturel’ [rightful prince and natural lord] [24.20; cf. 39.2, 19.3], but more importantly because his personal commitment is altruistic and civic-minded, dedicated to an outcome that the writer sees, and strives to make palpable to others, as beneficial to every French subject.) By the end of the Quadrilogue, France can present the love of country as a kind of political caritas capable of binding together the diverse persons, interests and desires that make up the state:

l’affection du bien publique peut estaindre voz desordonnances singulieres se les voulentez se conjoingnent en ung mesme desir de commun salut et en souffrant leur fortune et les ungs vers les autres gardent pacience. (82.10–14)

[solicitude for the public good can extinguish your individual disorders if your wills come together in a single desire for collective deliverance, and if each one accepts his lot and remains patient with the others.]

And this same emotion, France suggests, is what is required to unify the contentious Quadrilogue, orienting its fragments of partisan speech towards a common political goal and marshalling them to serve an overarching rhetorical agenda. Chartier’s chosen ‘invective’ mode properly generates a text that ‘procede par maniere d’envaïssement de paroles et par forme de reprendre’ [proceeds through verbal onslaughts and takes the form of recriminations] (8.9–10), but in brusquely curtailing the estates’ series of ‘excusacions et deffences … et descharges l’un vers l’autre’ [excuses and self-justifications … and diatribes against one another], France insists that such a medley of discordant outpourings is valueless ‘si non en tant que chascun’ [except insofar as everyone] – both every character and every reader – ‘la doye plus appliquer a son chastiement que a vitupere de son prouchain’ [should apply it more to his own correction than to the disparagement of his neighbour] (82.5–10). Such a reading practice would involve taking to heart what is justified in the complaints of the other estates and perhaps, in the case of (members of) the knightly and popular classes, recognising their (representatives’) own mistakes in the mirror of the text.

The Acteur’s dream, then, contains and strategically stages blameworthy partisan arguments that the Quadrilogue aims to synthesise into a textual whole that attains the stature and utility of genuine political discourse, ‘pas disputacion haineuse mais fructueuse’ [fruitful rather than hostile argument] (83.14), to the extent that it expresses and serves to promote French fellow-feeling as a principle of literary interpretation. This animating sentiment, linked to the underlying goodwill or intellectual generosity toward one’s countrymen that tempers critique and facilitates its productive reception, is situated at the origin of the text by the authorial prologue, which describes how ‘compassion’ for a France invaded, despoiled and smarting under the scourge of divine punishment moved Chartier to ‘ramener a memoire l’estat de nostre infelicité et a chascun ramentevoir ce qui lui en touche’ [call to mind our unfortunate state and remind each person of his part in it] (8.4–6).33 Patriotic passion and compassion are still more forcefully prescribed and modelled by the Acteur, whose parting captatio benevolentiae asks his audience to seek out and perceive, between the Quadrilogue’s often vitriolic lines,

la bonne affection plus que la gloire de l’ouvraige. Car je afferme loiaument que l’esmouvement de cest œuvre est plus par compassion de la necessité publique que par presumption d’entendement et pour profiter par bonne exhortacion que pour autrui reprendre. (84.5–10)

[the work’s benevolent disposition rather than its overweening pride. For I faithfully attest that this work is motivated more by compassion for the public need than by the presumption of understanding, and is intended to offer the benefit of righteous exhortation more than to reprove others.]

Care for the political community and for what its members have in common thus theoretically suffuses the entire text, ensuring continuity between its multiple levels of meaning, manipulating even its most intransigent characters like a benevolent puppeteer, and limning the ties that bind the estates, the nation, the narrator, the author, his readers and the ideal community to which they all belong. In this way, the Quadrilogue aspires to produce a patriotic experience that makes palpable the historically contested fact of political community in order to construct it as something unarguable and persuasive that it is incumbent upon ‘chascun lecteur’ [each reader] (84.4) to acknowledge and protect. This strategy complements prosopopoeia’s play to make visible the abstract entities called ‘France’, ‘Peuple’, ‘Chevalier’ and ‘Clergié’, allow them to speak as and for the human collectivities they embody, posit an anthropomorphic ‘filial’ relationship between France and the estates and (therefore) a fraternal one among her ‘children’, and establish the conditions for a four-part conversation out of which, if Chartier’s gambit pays off, renewed national unity and unanimity may emerge. The allegory with which the Quadrilogue’s dream begins and the emotion in which it issues function as two sides of the same coin, conspiring to perform the conceptual self-evidence and ‘natural’ legitimacy of Chartier’s ideology of Frenchness.

By this very token, however, both the political emotion and the allegorical poetics that Chartier so carefully elaborates fail, inevitably and perhaps necessarily, fully to conceal their constructed, artificial quality. This is due at least in part to a version of what Sarah Kay calls ‘the complexity of one’, the way in which didactic allegory’s drive toward ‘monological’ semiotic stability and ideological consensus invariably ends up complicating the notion of ‘oneness’ by exposing the disunity of subjectivity, the problematic relationships of parts to wholes and of the particular to the general, and the paradoxes inherent in allegorical representation, even within a signifying system as simple-seeming as the Quadrilogue’s.34 Structured as a psychomachia within the hypothetical collective consciousness of the nation (which is also that of the dreaming Acteur, who is in this sense an alternative personification of ‘France’),35 Chartier’s text, like all allegories of internal debate, dramatises plurality within unity in a manner that emphasises the former rather than the latter term. In articulating the partite wholeness of the polity, the dream gives an enduring plastic form to the very ‘division’ against which it rails. The dominant presence of ‘France’ seems poised to counter psychomachia’s centrifugal force by enacting the togetherness of the other characters, the whole to which they add up, but although the symbolic figuration of the three estates’ distinct provinces or fields of activity on Lady France’s mantle suggests an understanding of them as attributes of the state, she never indicates that the estates might be thought of as subsumed into a totality that she represents. Instead, she positions herself in an ontologically horizontal relationship to them in her capacities as both mother and kingdom, where the ‘kingdom’ – which sometimes, but not always, converges with the categories of the polity and the community – seems to stand for a particular configuration of personal political identity in terms of a collectivity larger than the estates in scale but similar to them in kind.36 Although the estates are grammatically gathered together in France’s and Clergié’s speeches by the recurring pronouns vous and nous, their unity remains uncertain and negotiable, the consequence of shared interests, collective action and (most importantly) political decision rather than of an ontology guaranteed by the concept of ‘France’.

Meanwhile, the names ascribed to the estates themselves cast them as easily identifiable individualised personifications of the human collectivities for whom they are named, but their unfolding conversation undermines their capacity to perform as such. Some inconsistency stems from, or at least is sanctioned by, the reductiveness of the trifunctional schema itself relative to late medieval sociopolitical reality.37 Peuple, for instance, speaks essentially as a poor farmer criticising Chevalier for the inefficacy of the knightly class and the misdeeds of soldiers of all sorts, including non-noble men-at-arms. Chevalier, however, alternately casts Peuple as a peasant insurrectionary and as an acquisitive, upwardly mobile bourgeois merchant with an antisocial aversion to reasonable taxation, while positioning himself as a member of the lower nobility or knighthood who nevertheless sometimes speaks on behalf of the French military leadership and of the soldiery in general. He does so mostly for the casuistic reasons that often complicate the transparency of allegorical representation in the characters’ verbal performances of their identities, as in Chevalier’s first speech, which evokes in affecting detail the physical and financial hardships suffered by knights serving their king and country in the field, but also excuses looting by hungry and unpaid (mercenary and/or non-noble?) ‘defenders of the realm’ – even while suggesting that the most ‘horribles excez’ [horrible excesses] (43.20–1) are probably committed by peasants moonlighting as soldiers – and defends the army’s apparent sluggishness in combating the English invader by praising the ‘chief de bataille’ [military commander] (45.6) who strategically bides his time to ensure eventual victory.

Troublingly, moreover, where ‘Le Peuple’ and ‘Le Clergié’ are collective nouns, ‘Le Chevalier’ is a singular one; he is, in other words, not ‘Chivalry’, but simply ‘The Knight’. This could be a ploy to avoid having to incarnate ‘La Chevalerie’ in a female body to match the noun’s grammatical gender or a way to distinguish the knighthood as a social body from chivalry as an ideology,38 but even so, Chartier’s choice heightens a blurring of the distinction between personified collectivities and particularised, synecdochic representatives or ‘exemplifications’ of social types that is also noticeable in the characters’ discourses.39 Peuple and Chevalier in particular lose track of their own allegorical identities, switching back and forth between speaking as je – a singular allegorical voice describing ‘his’ ideas and experiences, which typify and stand for those of the group – and speaking on behalf of a limited nous, as spokesmen and advocates for, rather than personifications of, their estates. The resulting ambiguity is picked up by the illustrators of Paris, BnF MS fr. 24441 and Paris, BnF MS Rothschild 2796, both of which depict (on fols 2r and 5v respectively) clustered groups of members of the three estates where Chartier’s verbal description calls for only a single personification of each.40

The textual Clergié strays still farther from the script of a group’s or its viewpoint’s straightforward representation through personification. The character does not testify to the clerical experience of the Hundred Years War in anything like the vivid, concrete way that his peers do for their estates. Reflecting theoretically on and exhorting others about the nation’s ills and their possible remedies is certainly a typically clerkly response to crisis, and Clergié’s speech could be interpreted, as it is by Chevalier in his final outburst, as ‘invectively’, albeit eruditely, loading others with blame and responsibility while interestedly downplaying inadequate clerical counsellors’ role in leading France astray. Still, Clergié’s primary function as an exemplar of civic-minded, productive political discourse makes it tempting to see him as a thinly veiled placeholder for Alain Chartier himself (who was, after all, a clerk), competing with the Acteur and the prologue’s ‘Alain Charretier’ and further muddling the representational status of the personified estates.41

The messiness of the Quadrilogue’s personification system intensifies the emotional force of the different characters’ complaints and arguments, inviting the reader to think of them both as allegorical figures and as human individuals with comprehensible experiences and feelings. However, it also raises questions about how transparently the personified kingdom and estates represent political collectivities to their individual human members reading the text, and therefore about how easily or productively readers can be assumed to recognise themselves, let alone their own faults, in the criticisms uttered about or by their allegorical avatars. Indeed, even if a reader does identify unproblematically with his estate (and, at the same time, with France?), an edifying confrontation with its and his errors is hardly as inevitable as Lady France and the Acteur apparently assume. Chartier’s opening address to the meticulously enumerated sociological groups that make up French society – he dedicates his incipient text ‘a la treshaulte et excellente majesté des princes, a la treshonnouree magnificence des nobles, circonspection des clers et bonne industrie du peuple françois’ [to the exalted and excellent majesty of princes, the most honoured magnificence of nobles, the prudence of clerks and the decent industry of the French people] (3.1–4) – suggests the possibility of legitimately diverse, complementary readings corresponding to and performed by different readerships.42 But while the oneiric narrative’s closing paragraphs anticipate a politically fruitful future for the Quadrilogue premised on its readers’ spontaneous, generous and compelling self-inscription into its system of personified political subjectivities, the author’s prologue anxiously imagines and attempts to preclude another kind of reception of his strategically orchestrated debate:

Si ne vueille aucun lire l’une partie sans l’autre, afin que l’en ne cuide que tout le blasme soit mis sur ung estat. Mais s’aucune chose y a digne de lecture, si vaille pour attrait a donner aucune espace de temps a visiter et lire le sourplus. (8.10–14)

[Let nobody read one part without the others, lest he should think that all of the blame is placed on a single estate. Rather, if something in it is worth reading, let it serve as an incentive to take the time to peruse and read the rest.]

Chartier’s concern reflects his sense of ‘the nature and the ethos of the “ideal” debate … in which all voices are heard, and no opinions are suppressed or erased’,43 but also his awareness that the Quadrilogue’s representation of partisanship and use of the invective mode risk to reinforce, rather than resisting, the faction they seek to censure if the various characters’ words are taken out of context and at face value. He fears a politically ‘partial’ interpretation of the Quadrilogue generated by a literally partial reading of the text. Prior partisan inclinations, however, are precisely what might inform selective reading by individuals keen to hear their own perspectives and grievances reaffirmed by the representatives of their estates or to see, with a jaundiced eye and a defensive disposition, what kind of slander the other estates heap upon theirs. Chartier’s solicitation of comprehensive reading is therefore also a plea for receptiveness to the text’s ideological message, that is, for the public to approach the Quadrilogue already moved by the patriotic feeling it is meant to inspire. In some sense, then, he seems to acknowledge that his preaching can be guaranteed to have its intended effect only on the converted, those whose bonne affection mirrors and responds to his own.

At the very least, Chartier recognises that the Quadrilogue is less an organic whole than a delicate mechanism, a meticulously crafted and balanced rhetorical contrivance whose gears mesh properly only when all of its pieces are in place. Little is natural and nothing is inevitable about the allegorical system designed to negotiate a path beyond national ‘division’ by mediating the individual political subject’s self-insertion into multiple conceptual formations of collective identity (the estates, the kingdom, the chose publique, the bien commun) and organising a productive relationship between them while concealing, behind the colourfully drawn figures of the personifications whom Chartier chooses to stage, other and more profoundly divisive ways of thinking internal difference within the polity – for instance, in terms of Armagnac and Burgundian allegiances cutting across class lines, the elephant in the Quadrilogue’s room, to which its tight focus on estate-based politics deliberately denies all but the most minimal representation.44 The same might be said of the unanimous French community whose image the text works so hard to project into the minds and hearts of its characters and readers, invested with a verbally constructed ‘naturalness’, an ostensibly palpable self-evidence belied by the need for its rhetorical fabrication.

Yet Chartier never denies the artificiality of the Quadrilogue or, for all his occasional recourse to the motifs and cadences of prophetic discourse, uses the conceit of its oneiric frame to buttress truth claims for its content. On the contrary, proud of the act of composition, he repeatedly foregrounds the dream’s textuality or literariness, introducing it as an ‘œuvre’ [work] (8.8, 84.7; cf. 84.6) or ‘petit traictié que je appelle quadrilogue [little treatise that I call a ‘quadrilogue’] (8.7; cf. 12.19, 83.19–20) and referring to the allegorical interlocutors as ‘personnages’ [characters] (8.8, 84.1).45 France’s parting command to the Acteur establishes that writing, and specifically activist writing undergirded by patriotism and aimed at the furtherance of the common good, is a worthy form of service to the state analogous to military service:

Et puisque Dieu ne t’a donné force de corps ne usaige d’armes, sers a la chose publique de ce que tu pues, car autant exaulça la gloire des Rommains et renforça leurs couraiges a vertu la plume et la langue des orateurs comme les glaives des combatans. (83.21–6)

[And since God did not give you physical strength or skill at arms, serve the commonwealth in your own way, for the orators’ pens and tongues amplified the glory of the Romans and fortified their hearts in virtue as much as fighters’ swords ever did.]

Although France is ostensibly talking about the Acteur’s faithful scribal transcription of the debate he has witnessed, her reference to the classical orators, as whose immitateur Chartier identified himself in the first sentence of his prologue, underscores that what she and Chartier are really valorising is creative, rhetorically skilful, morally edifying and politically efficacious discourse, the kind that Chartier plainly aspires to produce in the Quadrilogue.46 Persuasive language is the orator’s weapon or tool, with which he artfully forms and reforms the political consciousness of his audience, forging unity out of dissension, building consensus where there was none.

Not only texts, then, but also communities can be understood as works of art or artifice, and in closely connected ways. Although Lady France’s speech argues forcefully for the naturalness of the kingdom as a conceptual and experiential category, the Acteur’s ekphrastic lingering on the symbolic details of her appearance, a kind of verbal sculpture or painting that the Quadrilogue’s illustrators diligently translate into visual terms, foregrounds in its own way the artistry of Chartier’s allegorical textuality and, by extension, of the ideological structures it does not so much represent as produce. Moreover, Lady France’s feminine, individuated anthropomorphic form, which conceals or denies internal partition and supports a unitary understanding of the ‘body politic’47 and of collective identity on a national scale, is tellingly draped in and doubled by her mantle, a crafted object of ‘merveilleux artifice’ [marvellous workmanship] that ‘de trois paires d’ouvraiges sembloit avoir esté tissu et assemblé’ [seemed to have been woven and assembled from three pairs of pieces of handiwork] (10.23–5), corresponding to the very tripartite polity that Chartier’s oratorical prose attempts to knit or splice together. This figure of confected collectivity, like the one constituted by the Quadrilogue as a whole, suggests that while France may have a ‘natural’ claim on her subjects’ loyalty, fashioning solidarity takes effort and technique. With the ‘parfaicte œuvre … assemblé par la souveraine industrie des predecesseurs … qui tel le bastirent’ [perfect work … assembled by the supreme craftsmanship of the forefathers … who thus pieced it together] (11.20–12.15) falling into ruin under the assault of contemporary crises, Chartier’s turn to poetic oneiropolitics bespeaks a commitment to undertake for his own era the difficult work of community, thinking and feeling the ‘common’ through – rather than instead of – individuation and difference,48 hoping to spark – since it is impossible to compel – an upwelling of unanimous love or desire for the chose publique and its commun salut that, perhaps, is properly the stuff of dreams.


1 Mühlethaler, ‘Une génération’. See also Blanchard and Mühlethaler, Écriture et pouvoir, esp. 33–58; Gauvard, ‘Christine de Pizan et ses contemporains’; Blanchard, ‘Entrée du poète’; McCabe, ‘“Al université de tout le monde”’; and, for a comparison with earlier modes of clerkly political engagement, Mühlethaler, ‘Pour une préhistoire de l’engagement’. All English translations of medieval and modern French texts in this essay are my own.
2 Marchello-Nizia, ‘Entre l’histoire et la poétique’; cf. Quillet, ‘Songes et songeries’, and Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Poets, Saints, and Visionaries, 97–163.
3 On Bovet, see Brown’s chapter in this volume. On Christine, see Hick-Bartlett’s.
4 Évrart de Conty, Livre des eschez, 23.
5 Évrart de Trémaugon, Songe du vergier, ed. Schnerb-Lièvre, vol. 2, 262–3; cf. 270–1.
6 Christine de Pizan, Livre de l’advision Cristine, 11–12. Cf. Évrart de Trémaugon, Songe du vergier, vol. 1, 3.
7 On this conceptual vocabulary, established primarily by the twelfth-century ‘Chartrian’ Neoplatonists, see Dronke, Fabula, 13–67.
8 For overviews of Chartier’s life (mid-1380s–1430) and career, both bureaucratic and poetic, see Laidlaw, ‘Alain Chartier’ and Chartier, Poetical Works, ed. Laidlaw, 1–27.
9 Chartier, Quadrilogue invectif, 9, 2–8. Subsequent parenthetical citations provide page and line numbers in Bouchet’s 2011 edition of the Quadrilogue, based on the manuscript text of Paris, BnF MS fr. 126, fols. 191–209, dated to around 1450. Non-specialist readers may profit from Bouchet’s separately published modern French translation (2002).
10 See 3.7–4.5, 6.18–8.2, 9.20–4. With relative modesty, Chartier underscores the distance between himself and the biblical prophets: the medieval writer is not Isaiah, but has been rereading him (7.18–19). On Chartier’s ‘prophetic’ posture, see Mühlethaler, ‘Poète et le prophète’, 44–50, and Bouchet, ‘Vox Dei, vox poetæ’; cf. Mühlethaler, ‘Masques du clerc’.
11 On the Quadrilogue’s use of the traditional trifunctional schema influentially articulated by Duby, Trois Ordres, see Allard, ‘Idéal communautaire’.
12 On the roles of and relationship between the author and his Acteur, see Tarnowski, ‘Alain Chartier’s Singularity’, 46–52; Minet-Mahy, Esthétique et pouvoir, 415–29; Haidu, Subject Medieval/Modern, 325–7; and Bouchet, ‘Écrivain et son lecteur’.
13 Many personification allegories (such as the Roman de la Rose) tend to substitute talk for action and downplay the real significance of characters’ movement through space even when they present themselves as dynamic, but Chartier’s allegorical tableau vivant embraces stasis from the outset. Its construction is scrutinised by Rouy, Esthétique du traité moral, 39–52, 67–75, 83–7, 102–4, 130–49.
14 On the interplay between class-based and nation-based resentments in the Hundred Years War, see Giancarlo’s chapter in this volume.
15 Chartier, Lay de paix, 16. Chartier’s Debat du herault and Lay de paix are edited in Poetical Works, ed. Laidlaw, 421–35 and 410–20, respectively; the Ad detestacionem and Dialogus familiaris are edited in Œuvres latines, ed. Bourgain-Hemeryck, 225–44 and 246–325, respectively. The breadth of Chartier’s engagement with political questions is described by Mühlethaler, ‘Alain Chartier, Political Writer’.
16 On Chartier’s rhetoric and prose style, see Hatzfeld, ‘Style du Quadrilogue’ and Meyenberg, Alain Chartier prosateur.
17 Serchuk, ‘Illuminated Manuscripts’, 73; on the illustrated Quadrilogue in particular, see 81–98.
18 Kay, Place of Thought, 1–3.
19 The narrator of the Songe du vergier likewise traces his dream to reflections he has entertained while ‘tout eveillié’ [fully awake]; before bed, he recounts, ‘je comancé a y penser, et plus fort a ymaginer que onques mais n’avoie fait’ [I began to think about it and to imagine it more intensely than I ever had before], inspiring the ‘vision’ that comes to him in his sleep (Évart de Trémaugon Songe du vergier, vol. 1, 3–4). Chartier’s own unfinished Livre de l’Esperance (1430) opens with a very similar account of the Acteur’s book-fuelled meditation on France’s lost glory and troubled future leading to interaction with allegorical personifications, except that the vision that interrupts his melancholic stupor is not identified as a dream; see Chartier, Livre de l’Espérance, 1–3. On Chartier’s postures of ‘topical melancholy’, see Singer, Representing Mental Illness, 245–90. In the background of all of these scenes is the Boethian model of meditative memory work, performed in the bedchamber and associated with both rhetorical composition and vividly evoked allegorical encounters (especially with authoritative women), described by Carruthers, Craft of Thought, 173–5.
20 On ‘ymaginacion’, see Kelly, Medieval Imagination, and Minnis, ‘Langland’s Ymaginatif’.
21 The patterns and significance of Chartier’s choice of pronouns in the Quadrilogue are parsed by Rouy, Esthétique du traité moral, 249–86. For Poirion (Poète et le prince, 261), Chartier’s affectively charged moral and political verse is a ‘poésie du nous: le moi de l’auteur, non pas étalé, mais dilaté, rejoint dans l’expression lyrique la vérité des autres’ [poetry of the we: the author’s I, not displayed, but rather dilated, merges with the truth of others in lyric expression].
22 Fynsk, ‘Foreword’, x. On the philosophical underpinnings and intellectual genealogy of the distinction between le and la politique, see Marchart, Post-Foundational Political Thought.
23 Kruger, Dreaming in the Middle Ages, 72; cf. Ovid, Heroides, 272 (XIX.195–6).
24 On Macrobius’s discourse-founding categorisation of dreams in his Neoplatonist Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, see Kruger, Dreaming in the Middle Ages, 21–3; cf. the many variant theorisations of the dream’s complex imbrication of human embodiment and higher truth described in the rest of Kruger’s book. Lady France’s ‘oracular’ evocation of an uncertain future corresponds to Chartier’s assertion, in his authorial prologue, that models of political history based on the fickleness of Fortune or the organic growth and decay of kingdoms are misleading because they figure as natural and inevitable events that are really divine judgements on the moral state of nations (3.10–7.2) – meaning that moral reform can reshape even the grimmest-looking future.
25 Delogu, Allegorical Bodies, 142; see 142–52, 164–6. On argument from political ‘nature’, see Krynen, ‘Naturel’.
26 I examine the conceptual basis, rhetorical expression and political-philosophical stakes of the Quadrilogue’s ideological programme in greater detail in Wood, ‘Alain Chartier’s Quadrilogue invectif’.
27 On the complex and frequently contradictory notions of ‘natural law’ inherited and reworked by medieval thinkers, see Greene, ‘Instinct of Nature’, and Crowe, Changing Profile.
28 Delogu, Allegorical Bodies, 145, 8, 10. On the development of French amor patriae in tandem with personifications of the nation, see Beaune, Naissance de la nation France, 309–18, 324–35. As a substitute for the monarch, personified France, even in her sorry state, represents a euphemistic way of dealing with royal inadequacy; on metaphorical figurations of Charles VI’s malady, see Singer, Representing Mental Illness, 173–243.
29 I do not attempt here to pin down the ‘act of imagination rather than of political philosophy’ (Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, 29) that yields national identity as distinct – or not – from other forms of collective political subjectivity. However, on relevant medieval notions of ‘nation’ or (proto-)national community, see Guenée, ‘État et nation’; Guenée, Occident, 113–32; and Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities, 250–331.
30 Any proto-‘democratic’ implications of the Quadrilogue’s vision of political community should not be overstated, but on Chartier’s apparent solidarity with the laborious peuple, see Solterer, ‘Aimer un pays tout autre’.
31 The lexical field of the publique and the commun(e) in the Quadrilogue is reviewed in the editor’s introduction to Chartier, Quadrilogue invectif, xvii–xviii. On medieval Aristotelian ideas of the ‘common good’ and their pre-Aristotelian antecedents, see Kempshall, Common Good; Sère, ‘Aristote et le bien commun’; and Sassier, ‘Bien commun’. On Chartier’s use of classical history and exempla, see Gosman, ‘Alain Chartier’; Rouy, Esthétique du traité moral, 287–336; and Gosman, ‘Discours référentiel’.
32 In Chartier’s usage, affection is a capacious term capable of encompassing specific, situated emotions or passions as well as more general affective dispositions, desires, interests or investments, and extending to a range of (often ideologically charged, but felt rather than theorised) sympathies, attachments, and even loves.
33 For Mühlethaler (‘Tristesses de l’engagement’, 31–4), Chartier’s politically engaged posture is less powerfully affective than those of contemporaries like Christine de Pizan or Philippe de Mézières because Chartier delegates his emotional effusions to Lady France and channels them into cognitive processes yielding actionable knowledge and understanding – which is true if only sorrow, and not patriotic ardour or affection, is identified as a political emotion.
34 Kay, Place of Thought, 4–18.
35 Cf. the ‘allegorical mindscape’ in which the more personal psychomachia of Chartier’s Livre de l’Esperance unfolds (Delogu, ‘Cognition and Conversion’, 246–57).
36 On the ambiguous referential status of Chartier’s ‘France’, see Roux, ‘Alain Chartier devant la crise’.
37 See Blumenfeld-Kosinski, ‘Alain Chartier and the Crisis’, 218. Subdivisions within the traditional tripartite social order are also discussed at length in Christine de Pizan, Livre du corps de policie, 96–110; on Christine’s representation of the estates and its stakes, see Nederman, Lineages of European Political Thought, 248–58, and Adams, ‘Political Significance’. An interesting visualisation of estate-based social structure’s fifteenth-century rethinking appears in the frontispiece to the extract from Jean Golein’s Informacion des princes that accompanies Chartier’s Quadrilogue in BnF MS fr. 126, fol. 7r, where the king, clergy and nobility share a single large rectangular frame occupying the top half of a tripartite square whose lower half is divided into two parts separately depicting the bourgeois merchant class and the agricultural peasantry.
38 Brown, ‘Allegorical Design’, 388; Bouchet, ‘Introduction’, in Chartier, Quadrilogue invectif, trans. Bouchet, 28.
39 Ailes, ‘Literary Responses to Agincourt’, 8–9.
40 Images reproduced in Serchuk, ‘Illuminated Manuscripts’, 84, 94.
41 Roux, ‘Alain Chartier devant la crise’, 10; Bouchet, ‘Vox Dei, vox poetæ’, 42.
42 Bouchet, ‘Un petit traictié’, 209–10.
43 Cayley, ‘“Le Contraire Effacies”’, 37.
44 ‘Lurking behind the traditional class tensions revealed by the complaints of People and Knight was a more seismic split within French society’ (Taylor, ‘Alain Chartier and Chivalry’, 155). The fact that the supposedly ‘nationalist’ (because pro-Valois) Armagnacs were at least as intransigently partisan and factional as their opponents is highlighted by Adams, ‘Feuding, Factionalism and Fictions’.
45 On the generic implications of the term traictié, from the latin tractatus, see Bouchet, ‘Un petit traictié’, and Gauvard, ‘Christine de Pizan et ses contemporains’, 106–9. The Quadrilogue’s contemporary reception as a conspicuously authored text is evident in illustrated manuscripts like Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, MS 78 C 8, where Chartier is depicted directly addressing the three personified estates in France’s absence (fol. 1), and BnF MS fr. 24441, which foregrounds a red-robed, busily writing Acteur on the threshold of the miniature’s deep space, sitting in the centre of the visual field and mediating between the reader and the figures of the estates behind him, while apparently taking dictation from Chartier, who stands in the right-hand corner of the image, also in red and on the same plane as the Acteur, dominating the world of his literary creation from its margins (fol. 2). See Serchuk, ‘Illuminated Manuscripts’, 81–4 (although Serchuk identifies as Chartier the figure whom I suggest represents the Acteur in BnF MS fr. 24441).
46 Chartier’s highly self-conscious and programmatic investment in emotive, persuasive discourse as the vehicle of a simultaneously rhetorical, ethical and political agenda whose pursuit privileges the form of literary dialogue or debate is demonstrated by Cayley, Debate and Dialogue, 87–135. Chartier’s prologue positions him ‘in the wake of the Christian orator’ (Mühlethaler, ‘Alain Chartier, Political Writer’, 174–5; cf. Bouchet, ‘Vox Dei, vox poetæ’, 47–50) as well as the Ciceronian one, on whose medieval fortunes see Nederman, ‘Union of Wisdom and Eloquence’. The reinvention, in the Quadrilogue, of Chartier’s narrative persona as a public moralist and activist is inscribed in a career-spanning trajectory from private to public discourse by Kinch, ‘“De l’ombre de mort”’.
47 Cf. the more troubling metaphors of the disunited, disordered or sick body politic introduced by Peuple (31.14–23) and Clergié (57.14–58.2). On the ‘body politic’ as a figure of political speech and thought in the Middle Ages, see Nederman, ‘Physiological Significance’, and ‘Body Politics’.
48 ‘Chartier’s allegory … both affirms and eludes the problematics of political totalization’, just as his lexical reifications of community ‘index a principle of political identity, not to erase differences but to sublate them’, postulating national unity as ‘the universal of all separate, concrete identities’ (Haidu, Subject Medieval/Modern, 315, 323; see 313–27).
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