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on 28 April 2015
Bought as a primary text for my uni degree course. Very helpful and clearly explained
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on 20 November 2016
If your into this type of literature great
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There's so much that we don't know about the lais in this volume which we have from the Harley manuscript in the BL: we don't know exactly when they were composed (though sometime in the later 12th century), or in what order, who 'Marie de France' was, and who the king to whom she dedicated them (Henry II?) - we don't even know for sure that she was a woman (though, like other scholars, I'm fairly confident that she was from the content of her poems). What we have are these twelve short tales, originally written in Old French in rhyming couplets, here translated into English prose.

All of the stories are of love, but a specific historicised love whose codes are courtly and which revel in the suffering of lovers. Young wives with older, jealous husbands take handsome young knights as lovers; beautiful virginal girls get pregnant by their secret lovers, and adultery is venerated rather than condemned. Some of the most interesting stories feature gender inversions where women take up quests to win passive men (modelled on Cupid and Psyche?) and there are overt intertexts with Ovid's poems where the Remedia Amoris gets name-checked, and where Laustic intersects with Ovid's Philomela.

The prose translations are useful but do inevitably disrupt the relationship between form and content: three tales are included in their original Old French and feel different immediately, not least due to the driving rhyming scheme. All the same, this is a helpful introduction to the lais which circulated in both England and France and offer provocative comparisons with the Arthurian romances as well as Chaucer and later Renaissance women writers such as Marguerite de Navarre.
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on 18 May 2006
Before the famous Italian Renaissance, you could speak of a French Renaissance in the 12th century as far as literature is concerned.

In Southern France there were the Troubadours, singers and poets, often part of the nobility or their entourage. In the North of France you had Chrétien de Troyes and his Arthurian romances and the Lais of Marie de France, to name only two of the most important.

The 'Roman de la Rose' was written in the 13th cent. but is probably the most important masterwork of the French Renaissance.

About the person of Marie de France almost nothing is known for certain.Her 'Lais' - stories about romance or adventure - are based upon

the popular and folkloristic tales that already existed for centuries in Bretagne - a region close to where the Atlantic meets the North-Sea.

These stories were handed down from generation to generation by story tellers.

The Lais of Marie de France excel by diversity. There are love stories - of course - but also vivid descriptions of

tournaments and even a story about a werewolf.

Marie de France proofs that medieval literature can be entertaining.
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on 30 December 2011
I had to read this for an introduction into medieval literature for my university course and had trouble in putting it down. The tales are brilliantly translated and with many of the lais being very short, it meant i whizzed through the book pretty quickly. It is a refreshing read and a book i will definately pick up again.
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on 27 May 2010
An excellent Penguin classic complete with notes, a must for lovers of old poetry styles, something to be savoured and re-read many times
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on 3 January 2015
This is English and provides a useful commentary alongside the text. As such id highly reccomend above other versions. Do please check the text u get, if not this one, is English not french
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on 27 February 2013
I loved this book. I'm taking an English course so this arrived right on time and the stories in here are just awesome!
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on 1 February 2017
Great notes, into and commentary. Very useful for a uni student
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on 23 October 2014
A delight for medieval romantics fans
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