Friday, September 14, 2007

Defining Fabliaux

Jennifer Lynn Jordon found a delightful fabliaux online. For those of you who don't know what a fabliaux is (sometimes spelled "fabliau"), The Oxford Companion to English Literature boringly defines it as:
A short tale in verse, almost invariably in octosyllabic couplets, dealing for the most part from a comic point of view with incidents of ordinary life. The fabliau was an important element in French poetry in the 12th-13th cents, and was imitated by Chaucer, in e.g. 'The Miller's Tale.'

Oxford Companion, you stink. What a stupid, boring definition. Therefore, I give you the definition from The Nokes Companion to Medieval Literature, a highly respected publication I just made up:
A short narrative poem with hilarious dirty jokes. Good fabliaux focus on several key elements: jokes about genitalia, clergy, cuckolds, stupid peasants, viragoes, and scatological jokes (esp. including jokes about farting). The fabliau has suffered as a genre because it cannot generally be taught until the post-secondary level of education, however it has also secured the position of medieval literature as the coolest literary period one can study.

Now, that's a definition!

I'm afraid I can't really tell you the title of this fabliau in English (in order to maintain a generally PG13 rating for the blog), so I'll link to it using the French title: "Le Chevalier Qui Fist Parler les Cons."*

*My apologies to any French parents out there whose children may have stumbled onto this post ... but, hey, at least they're getting some culture!


  1. I love that one. I posted a little something on it a while back. Good lord, I have to work one into next semester's syllabi (and what's your preference for pluralizing that word?)

  2. I prefer "syllabontes," a delightfully pedantic pluralizing that recognizes the Greek origins of the word. I especially like using it whenever in a buronic(bureaucratic + moron) situation, as it momentarily knocks the buron off kilter.

  3. Which bring us to another plural: un fabliau, deux fabliaux.

  4. See, now, I had always thought that was the case too, but some years ago someone corrected me on that, and then proceeded to show me in a couple of reference works that the "x" ending isn't necessarily plural.

    Are there any Wordhoarders with really good medieval French who can confirm that the "x" ending is always plural? I'd like to know for sure.

  5. Larry Benson credits it so, which I think is where I got that distinction (i.e. from the Riverside Chaucer), but then OF is not his specialty, ne c'est pas?

  6. It's probably safer to use the x for plurals anyway, as you absolutely won't be wrong, then.

  7. Ya know, Dr. Richard Scott Nokes, there's room for such a guide....whether published on paper, or as a series in an online publication.....