Alain Chartier Analysis

Other Literary Forms

Traditional literary history has judged Alain Chartier’s poetry to be less important than his prose works. This evaluation is based on the fact that many of the poems are conventional, courtly creations, whereas the prose works deal with substantial moral and political issues. Modern scholars, however, have adopted a new perspective on Chartier’s poetry, seeing in it a symbolic extension of the content found in the prose works. This new approach reveals a continuity and balance in Chartier’s works.

Chartier wrote in both Latin and French. His major prose works in French are Le Quadrilogue invectif (1489; The Invective Quadrilogue, late fifteenth century), written in 1422, and Le Traité de l’espérance: Ou, Consolation des trois vertus (1489; The Treatise on Hope: Or, The Comfort of the Three Virtues; late fifteenth century) written about 1428. The Invective Quadrilogue, composed after the Battle of Agincourt, is a patriotic allegory in which France exhorts the orders of society—chivalry, the clergy, and the common people—to seek peace together. Chartier takes a firm stand in this work, which many critics consider his most important, for national unity, for the poor, and for the Dauphin Charles. The author’s longest work and among his last, The Treatise on Hope, was inspired by Boethius. Allegorical and historical figures paint a vivid tableau of a country distressed by continual conflict...

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Alain Chartier has been called the “Father of French Eloquence” and one of the first of France’s great patriots. Literary history has admired him most for his patriotism, his humanism, and his erudition. During his lifetime and in the century that followed, Chartier was held in high esteem for his oratorical and poetic ability. Then, for many years, he fell out of critical favor and was rarely mentioned with judgment other than disdain for the excessively traditional aspects of his work. Modern critics have benefitted from the studies of Arthur Piaget, Pierre Champion, and Gaston Paris, as well as by the clarification of the confusing and extensive manuscript tradition. In addition to Hoffman, scholars such as J. C. Laidlaw, William W. Kibler, and C. J. H. Walravens have based their evaluations on more reliable texts and have viewed Chartier in his historical as well as his literary context.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Brown, Cynthia J. “Allegorical Design and Image-Making in Fifteenth-Century France: Alain Chartier’s Joan of Arc.” French Studies 53, no. 4 (October, 1999): 385-404. Brown argues that it was the late medieval tendency to allegorize moments of crisis in order to understand and overcome them that set the stage for the construction of Joan’s image.

Giannasi, Robert. “Chartier’s Deceptive Narrator: ‘La Belle Dame sans mercy’ as Delusion.” Romania 114 (1996): 362-384. Analyzes the narrator’s persona as distinct from that of the author, reading the poem as the rejected lover’s revenge fantasy.

Hale, J. R., J. R. L. Highfield, and B. Smalley, eds. Europe in the Late Middle Ages. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1965. This collection of essays provides valuable background information on life in fourteenth and fifteenth century Europe. P. S. Lewis’ essay on “France in the Fifteenth Century” supplies helpful information on political and social life at court and makes direct reference to Chartier’s work.

Hoffman, Edward J. Alain Chartier: His Work and Reputation. Geneva, Switzerland: Slatkine Reprints, 1975. A comprehensive introduction to Chartier’s life, works, and critical reputation. As is typical of earlier criticism, Hoffman dismisses much of Chartier’s poetry as frivolous and conventional, indifferent to external events.

Hult, David F....

(The entire section is 546 words.)