Jean de Bueil: Reactionary knight

Matthieu E Chan Tsin, Purdue University


The purpose of this study was to investigate the military and social motives behind the composition of Jean de Bueil's Le Jouvencel . The author demonstrates that this work was more than a military treatise in palatable form, written to instruct younger generations who would be called to military service and to military command, and hidden under the form of a lengthy roman à clé. Rather, Le Jouvencel amounts to a defense and illustration of the ideals of knighthood. After applying modern literary criticism theories, it was found that the text is articulated around a central ideology, presented through a series of codes of conduct. Throughout a process of universalization , this ideology is extended to medieval society as a whole. The study of the historical background of the work showed that many military and social developments occurred during the Hundred Years' War. These developments threatened knights' military supremacy. The study of the literary background of Le Jouvencel showed that Jean de Bueil's work was unique in its format among the abundant literature inspired by the events of the Hundred Years' War. The study of the three parts of the work reveals that Jean de Bueil believed not only that knighthood was a sacred order, but also that medieval society as a whole was created to function around the same knightly orders that were supposed to protect it from war. Moreover, he paints the portrait of a perfect knight, inspired by his younger self, who climbs through the ranks of medieval French society with ease thanks to his sense of honor, dedication to knightly duty, and love of warfare. This hero embodies Jean de Bueil's ideals. His military and social success illustrates the value of Jean de Bueil's didactic message. But Jean de Bueil's ideals were outdated, as the military strategies of the end of the Hundred Years' War and the Franco-Burgundian conflict were radically different than those of his time. Although the changes feared by Jean de Bueil had not yet drastically affected society and knighthood, Le Jouvencel serves as an early warning and exposes the concerns of the old knight.




Contreni, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Literature|Middle Ages|Middle Ages|Romance literature

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