Provençal literature

Provençal literature,

vernacular literature of S France. Provençal, or Occitan, as the language is now often called, appears to have been the first vernacular tongue used in French commerce and literature. Provençal literature, originating in Limousin, flourished (11th–12th cent.) in the whole area of S France, where langue d'oclangue d'oc and langue d'oïl
, names of the two principal groups of medieval French dialects. Langue d'oc
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 was spoken and medieval civilization flowered. Elements drawn from a Latin heritage, from the Arabic civilization to the south, and from Christian concepts were combined to create a new and striking lyric poetry. From Latin models came the bases for imagery, rhetoric, and metrics; from Arabic poetry may have been drawn ideas of service, secret love, and spiritualization of passion, and to the latter source Christian beliefs probably contributed. Idealization of love emerged in Provençal poetry as a concept of humble (and often unrewarded) service of a lady worshiped from afar; this was a new and important theme in Western literature. Also significant was the great mastery of form, which became increasingly complex in the 13th cent. Although texts are extant from 1000, the first known troubadour was William IX, Duke of Aquitaine (c.1080–1127). He and his descendants, Eleanor of Aquitaine and her son King Richard I of England, were famous patrons of poetry. Among the great Provençal poets of the 12th cent. were Bernard de Ventadour, Bertrand de BornBertrand de Born
or Bertran de Born
, c.1140–c.1214. French troubadour of Limousin. Some of his 40 surviving poems (in Provençal) tell of his part in the struggles between Henry II of England and his sons.
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, Arnaud Daniel (admired by both Dante and Petrarch), Geraut de Borniel, and Jaufré Rudel. The outstanding work of the period is the epic Girart de Roussillon. Although Provençal poetry declined with the waning of the 13th cent., it exerted enormous influence on poets throughout Western Europe. The Albigensian Crusade (1209–29) and the introduction of the Inquisition resulted in the flight of many troubadours to Spain and Italy. But important works remain from the 13th cent., including Jaufré, an Arthurian romance; Flamenca, a masterly romance of manners; and biographies of the troubadours. An academy, established (1324) at Toulouse, published (c.1345) a book of rules for poetry. Provençal literature continued to live during the next centuries, with its most significant output in the popular genres: drama, carols, and burlesques. The 19th-century romantic interest in the Middle Ages and in national literatures inspired a revival, led by Joseph Roumanille (1818–91). An association of Provençal poets, the Félibrige, was formed (1854) to establish a common orthography for the various dialects and to purify and enrich the vocabulary. Frédéric MistralMistral, Frédéric
, 1830–1914, French Provençal poet. With Théodore Aubanel he was one of the seven founders (1854) of the Félibrige, an organization to promote Provençal as a literary language (see Provençal literature).
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 won international acclaim for his national epic Mirèio (1859). Other fine works include those of Théodore Aubanel (1829–86). Literary activity in the language continues today at a lesser pace.


See R. T. Hill and T. G. Bergin, Anthology of the Provençal Troubadours (2 vol., 2d rev. ed. 1973); F. M. Chambers, An Introduction to Old Provençal Versification (1985).

Provençal Literature


literature that was and is written in Provençal and that developed in Provence. The first texts to have come down to us are a fragment of the long poem Boethius (c. 1000) and the Song of St. Fides of Agen (mid-11th century). The chivalrous tale was represented by a few works, including Jaufré and Flamenca (13th century). The poetry of the troubadours emerged in the late 11th century, reaching its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries. Troubadour poetry had its source in folk literature and was also influenced by Latin poetry and Hispano-Arabic literature. The lyric poetry of the troubadours is secular both in origin and content. While Jaufré Rudel (mid-12th century) favored the theme of loving from afar (amor de lonh), other poets, such as William IX, Count of Poitiers (1071–1127) and Marcabrun (wrote 1135–50), were more open in expressing their emotions. Sensual love was the theme of Raimbaut de Vaqueyras (wrote 1190–1207) and Arnaut de Ma-reuil (second half of the 12th century); the bard of tender love was Bernart de Ventadour (wrote 1150–70).

Many poets described the internecine feudal wars and the Crusades, including Bertran de Born (c. 1140–1215). Antipapal themes permeate the work of Guilhem Figueira (1215-c. 1250). Peire Cardenal (c. 1210-late 13th century) was a noted satirist who mocked the church. Among the troubadours were those who favored formal experimentation and even an encoded style (trobar clus), such as Arnaut Daniel (wrote 1180–1200), Raimbaut d’Orange (12th century), and Guiraut Riquier (1254–92), and those who favored clarity (trobar leu), including Giraut de Borneil (c. 1165–1200). After the Albigensian Crusades of 1209–29, Provençal culture lost its unity and the work of the troubadours went into decline.

In the 16th century, Provençal literature developed primarily in Gascony and produced some significant poets, whose work reflects the influence of Protestantism: P. de Garros (c. 1526–83), A. Gaillard (c. 1530-after 1592), and L. Belland de la Bellaudière (1532–88). Provençal literature later became increasingly divided into narrow dialectal literatures. The most original writer of this period was P. Goudelin, or Goudouli (1579–1649). The influence of classicism on Provençal literature was slight. Burlesque verse, satire, and nature lyrics developed. J.-B. Favre (1727–83) stands out among 18th-century poets.

A new and significant period in Provençal literature began in connection with a cultural upsurge in the Midi, an increase in nationalistic feelings, and the appearance of major creative individual talents, including J. Jasmin (1798–1864), J. Rou-manille (1818–91), T. Aubanel (1829–86), and F. Mistral (1830–1914). They proclaimed the felibrean movement and strove to develop a unified literary language and to free Provençal literature from dialectal divisions. The felibrean poets, who included F. Gras (1844–1901), created remarkable works of lyric poetry and prose. The movement ceased to exist in the early 20th century.

In the 20th century, most Provençal writers have written in both French and Provençal. Interesting literature has been produced by the Limousin school; J.-B. Chèze (1870–1935) and P.-L. Grenier (1879–1954) are among the poets who have attempted to revive the literary traditions of the past. The major poet of the Roussillon school was J.-S. Pons (1886–1962).

Since World War II, attempts have been made to unite the literary forces of Provence. New journals have appeared, and many writers have become specialists in the history of Provençal literature, including R. Nelli (born 1908) and C. Camproux (born 1908). Outstanding writers include the poets M. Rouquette (born 1908), M. Allier (born 1912), P. Bec (born 1921), B. Manciet (born 1923), S. Bec (born 1933), and Y. Rouquette (born 1936), the prose writer J. Boudou (born 1920), and the poet, prose writer, and scholar, R. Lafont (born 1923).


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