chapter  4
20 Pages

Memory, Desire and Writing in Jean Froissart’s Prison amoureuse

An arresting scene from Jean Froissart’s Prison amoureuse reveals a complex interplay between desire and the processes of literary production and textual circulation. On discovering that his beloved is outside with a party of women, the narrator hurries to join them and is made welcome. Observing that the purse hanging from his waist is full, the women decide to purloin its contents, but expose their own success through their laughter and lowered voices. A playful fight ensues, as the narrator attempts to recover letters and poems sent to him by his patron, proposing to retrieve his property from its place of concealment in a maiden’s bosom. The women respond by assailing his body, as he protests, ‘Sans noient espargnier mes draps’ [‘without sparing my clothes’] (1136).1 He buys his freedom and the return of his correspondence at the cost of a ballade and a virelay, which his beloved shears away from the letters with her diamond ring. The women read, recite and copy these texts with great pleasure.