Composed in French in twelfth-century England, these twelve brief verse narratives center on the joys, sorrows, and complications of love affairs in a context that blends the courtly culture of tournaments and hunting and otherworldly elements such as self-steering boats, shape-shifting lovers, and talking animals. Popular with readers across countries and languages since their composition, the Lais have made their author, Marie, one of the most famous women writers of the Middle Ages, renowned for her brilliant use of language and cultural allusion as well as her keen eye for human behavior.
This new edition provides a complete facing-page edition with the original text alongside a new modern English translation. A single manuscript, Harley 978, is used as the copy text. Appendices include contemporary literature on love, animals, and courtly life, as well as a list of textual variants in other manuscripts.
“Given the changes that have taken place in the discipline over the past 15 years, Claire M. Waters’s new facing-text edition of the lais of Marie de France—the first of its kind—is sure to become a standard for both classroom and research. Waters has made the sound and important decision to base her text on a single manuscript (British Library MS Harley 978), offering more direct access to a canonical medieval text as it was produced and read, rather than as it has been speculatively recreated by modern editors. The translation is fluid and faithful, while the introductory materials lucidly contextualize Marie’s Lais both in their own cultural moment and in contemporary scholarship. This edition complements the lais that Waters translated for the Broadview Anthology of British Literature and extends the ways in which they can be taught in graduate and undergraduate classrooms.” — Geoff Rector, University of Ottawa
“Innovative and elegant, this edition links textual transcription and translation to a digitized manuscript of Marie’s oeuvre, British Library MS Harley 978. Students can use this edition in tandem with the online codex to add historical authenticity to their reading. Claire Waters enriches the medieval context of her lucid translations by including informative appendices ranging from courtly love and society, to animal fables, to historical background, and important literary analogues.” — Stephen G. Nichols, Johns Hopkins University
“The usefulness of this book to classrooms both undergraduate and graduate, and to any reader who desires closer acquaintance with Marie’s poetry, will be very great indeed…. Waters’s translations, some of which have already appeared in the Broadview Anthology of British Literature, are exactly what is wished for in a dual-language edition: a line-by-line rendition into plain, unpretentious prose—though it is a little difficult to designate as ‘prose’ a translation that captures Marie’s phrasing and wit as expertly as this one does…. Waters, in her edition, translation, and apparatus, is devoted, in turn, not to ‘supplying the rest’ through her own understanding—great though it is—but to making that connection possible for us…. Experienced instructors will have a carefully edited and compiled and eminently teachable (not to mention inexpensive) record of Marie’s Lais and their tradition; and any readers getting their first introduction to Marie through this edition will indeed be on the right path.” — Thomas H. Crofts, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching