Over fifty chansons de geste were reworked into prose between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries for patrons and audiences who demanded updated, de-rhymed versions of heroic songs. While most prose translations were commissioned by noble patrons, Philippe de Vigneulles (1471-1527), a cloth merchant of Metz, operated outside the system of patronage on self-imposed projects with a pronounced civic bias. His translation of the monumental Lorraine epic cycle into Middle French prose afforded him an opportunity to reconfigure the city's legendary past and validate the concerns of a prosperous merchant class.
The craft of mise en prose is examined in the context of the author's larger cultural agenda as he weaves the epic legend into his civic, personal and aesthetic preoccupations. This perspective illuminates a previously neglected sphere of medieval literary production, revealing fundamental assumptions about the epic tradition and the power of prose in urban culture.
CATHERINE M. JONES is Associate Professor of French and Provencal at the University of Georgia.