Comparative Literature and French Studies
Michel-André Bossy studies medieval cultural connections between France and its neighbors, especially during the period of the troubadours and the Hundred Years' War. His fields include medieval French, Anglo-Norman, and Occitan literature, 12th- to 15th-century lyric poetry, and social interpretations of literature. His emphases involve literary patronage and court politics, troubadours (especially Guiraut Riquier), manuscript compilations, cultural rivalries among book collectors, Chrétien de Troyes, Froissart.
I came to Brown with a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Yale. (Before graduate school, I had attended a French lycée and Princeton, where I majored in English.) At Brown I joined two departments, Comparative Literature and French Studies, each of which I would eventually chair. I participated in the Medieval Studies program and in faculty governance, especially on the Faculty Executive Committee. My career path has included several literary domains of the Western Middle Ages, with forays into teaching literary theory. I have researched the cultural and political messages that hand-written books conveyed to the patrons who commissioned them, to the book collectors who fought over them, and to other readers in medieval courts and cities. I am investigating, for instance, the political implications of troubadours songs for their original listeners and also, in later circumstances, for scribes who gathered them into manuscript anthologies, especially in northern Italy.
My current research focuses on the political dimension of literary art in the courts of France, England, Italy, and Spain between 1250-1550. I examine the methods book collectors employed to pilfer valuable manuscripts and use them for cultural and political profit during the period of the Hundred Years War, with an emphasis on English, French and Burgundian nobles and warriors who were also bibliophiles. The political and social turmoil of war spurred various highhanded forms of book procurement. These forms include:
(1) battle spoils and looting--the book as a war trophy;
(2) books borrowed and deliberately not returned to their rightful owners;
(3) coerced sales, in which the victor purchases manuscripts at ridiculously low prices;
(4) the confiscation and punitive seizure of books.
As part of this project, I also examine countermeasures attempted against these practices: for example, the tactics used by the victims or their heirs in order to retrieve--or "ransom"--their lost treasures. Manuscripts pertinent to my study are located in several libraries, such as the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, the British Library, and the Nottingham University Library.
In addition, I also have a book manuscript in preparation on the thirteenth-century troubadour Guiraut Riquier: a study of the semi-autobiographical plot lines embedded in his song-book (chansonnier). I am also editing and translating the complete lyrics and political songs of Guiraut Riquier.
Ph.D., Yale University
Fellow in residence, Camargo Foundation, Cassis, France, January-May 1992.
Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Chevalier), Republic of France, 1983.
Junior Fellow, Southeastern Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 1976.
Summer Stipend Award, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1972
Modern Language Association
Medieval Academy of America
American Association of Teachers of French
International Courtly Literature Society
Association Internationale des Etudes Occitanes
Société Guilhem IX
Medieval French, Anglo-Norman, and Occitan (Provençal) literatures.
Western European poetry, romances, and chronicles from the 12th to the 15th-century.
Medieval literary patronage and court politics.
History of literaty theory.
Research grant from the Office of the Vice-President for Research, 2003-2006
Research grants from the Faculty Development Fund, 1998, 1999, 2001
Research Grant, American Philosophical Society, January-May 1992.
Odyssey Project summer grant, supported by Ford Foundation and Brown University, 1989.
Incentive grant for course development, Brown University, 1987.