Rhizomes, Parasites, Folds and Trees: Systems of Thought in Medieval French and Catalan Literary Texts

Change log

This thesis investigates conceptual networks —systems of organising, understanding and explaining thought and knowledge— and the ways in which they underlie both text and its mise en page across a range of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century French and Catalan literary texts and their manuscript witnesses. Each of the three chapters explores a separate corpus of texts, using two of four interrelated network theories: Michel Serres’ notion of parasites and hosts as the basic interconnecting units that combine to constitute all relational networks; the ubiquitous organizational tree; Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the fold as the primary factor in producing differentiation and identity; and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s unruly, anti-hierarchical and anti-arborescent rhizomatic systems. The first chapter engages primarily with parasites and trees; the second with trees and folds; and the third with folds and rhizomes. However, resonances with the other network theories are discussed as they occur, in order to demonstrate the fundamentally interconnected and often interchangeable nature of these systems. Each chapter includes close analysis of manuscript witnesses of the texts under discussion.

The first chapter, ‘Saints Denis and Fanuel: Parasitism and Arborescence on the Manuscript Page’, examines parasitic and arboreal networks in two hagiographic texts: late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century prose redactions of the Vie de Saint Denis, and the thirteenth‐century hagiographic romance Li Romanz de Saint Fanuel. The second chapter, ‘Ramon Llull’s Folding Forests: The World, the Tree and the Book’, addresses arborescent and folding structures in Llull’s encyclopaedic Arbre de ciència [Tree of Science], composed between 1295 and 1296. The third chapter, ‘Transgender Genealogy: Turning, Folding and Crossing Gender’, considers three characters in medieval French texts who can be read as transgender: Saint Fanuel; the King of Torelore in Aucassin et Nicolette; and Blanchandin/e in Tristan de Nanteuil. The chapter explores the ways in which these characters’ queer trajectories can be understood through conceptions of directionality which relate to the fold and the rhizome.

Burgwinkle, Bill
Medieval French Literature, Medieval Catalan Literature, Ramon Llull, Rhizomes, Queer Theory, Transgender Theory, Deleuze and Guattari, Michel Serres, Judith Butler
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
PhD studentship funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.