Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Poictesme (PWA-tem). Imaginary medieval French realm whose name is derived from the cities of Poictiers (modern Poitiers) and Angoulesme (modern Angoulême), although it lies in the south, along the Mediterranean Sea’s Gulf of Lions. Poictesme corresponds geographically with France’s modern district of Gard, overlapping Herault and Bouches-Du-Rhone. Poictesme is a central location in many of the novels in James Branch Cabell’s eighteen-volume The Biography of the Life of Manuel, of which Jurgen is a part. It is a pleasant country of fields, mountains, and forests (some haunted), and walled cities with castles, including Storisende (“story’s end”), the capital.

Cabell based Poictesme partially on country resorts in Virginia where he passed time as a young man among the elegant gentry of the South.

Garden Between Dawn and Sunrise

Garden Between Dawn and Sunrise. Place inhabited by the illusions of youth and idealistic love, including Dorothy La Désirée, sister of the ruler of Poictesme, as she was when Jurgen first loved her. The garden reflects Cabell’s ambivalence toward the vision of the eternal feminine glimpsed by naïve, adoring love: It is a necessary ideal, humankind’s window to transcendence, as well as a great deal of fool nonsense.

Amneran Heath

Amneran Heath. Unwholesome and magical place, with an entrance to a troll’s cave. At the end of the book, Jurgen finds Koshchei—the creator of the world—at the back of the cave, working in a small office; however, he gets no satisfactory explanations of life or of himself from the dim and overbusy creator.


Cameliard (kah-MEEL-yard). Capital of Glathion, the realm modeled on...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Attebery, Brian. The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980. Places Cabell in the larger context of American literature, comparing and contrasting him specifically with science fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs. A perceptive and ground-breaking study.

Carter, Lin. Imaginary Worlds: The Art of Fantasy. New York: Ballantine Books, 1973. Discusses Cabell and Jurgen in relation to a tradition extending from the ancient epics to literature of the early 1970’s. An appreciation rather than a rigorous analysis.

Davis, Joe Lee. James Branch Cabell. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1962. Treats Jurgen as a volume in Cabell’s series “The Biography of the Life of Manuel” and ranks him with such internationally known writers as George Bernard Shaw and André Gide. The obvious starting point for anyone interested in Cabell.

Fiedler, Leslie A. “The Return of James Branch Cabell: Or, The Cream of the Cream of the Jest.” In James Branch Cabell: Centennial Essays, edited by M. Thomas Inge and Edgar E. MacDonald. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983. An informal essay praising Cabell for writing what Fiedler ironically labels “juvenile trash” (as opposed to “high art”). Jurgen is also discussed in many of the other essays in this collection.

Riemer, James D. From Satire to Subversion: The Fantasies of James Branch Cabell. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989. Evaluates a handful of Cabell’s best fantasies, including Jurgen, and concludes that he successfully merges satire and subversion. Useful secondary bibliography.