Language, sex, and excrement: Charles Sorel rewrites the fabliaux

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This article examines three scenes in Charles Sorel's 1623 L'Histoire Comique de Francion as analogues to three medieval fabliaux, 'Le Vilain de Bailleul', 'De Jouglet', and 'La Demoiselle qui ne pouvait entendre parler de foutre'. Sorel's use of the fabliaux highlights relations between husband and wife, the representation of bodily functions, and the role of sexual language in the production of meaning and desire. In his comic novel, Sorel reframes these themes within a noble discourse that seeks to limit the carnival nature of the fabliaux. His reworking of fabliaux stories provides insight into the shifting ideologies and rhetorics of the representation of gendered bodies, gendered voices, and sexuality across the pre-modern and early modern periods. Ultimately, however, Sorel gives voice to the complex posterity of folk culture at the same time as he attempts, and perhaps fails, to master these fabliaux and their messages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
JournalSeventeenth-Century French Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Bodies
  • Carnival
  • Charles Sorel
  • Comic novel
  • Fabliaux
  • Francion
  • Gender


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