Since the beginnings of mediaevalism in the Enlightenment, literary history has mostly been conceived unilaterally, as if the literary process was itself subject to a mysteriously organic law of progress and ultimate decay. From this evolutionary perspective,1 it seemed particularly difficult to account for certain anachronistic phenomena of mediaeval literature and to find adequate means of judging them. The popularity of the chanson de geste in the century of prose romance and vast compilations, the survival of seemingly traditional Arthurian material in those prose romances, the obsession with certain standard types of the courtly lyric throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, are these simply examples of decadence, formalism, or ideological “mauvaise foi”? One way of avoiding the dilemma has so far been a sort of immanent structural approach or, more often, the philological examination of sources, textual reminiscences, and thematic analogues. Differences were reduced to analogues or similarities alone, and ultimately there was still time to ask the relevant questions regarding an author’s originality. Guided by predominantly genetic interests, the traditional historical method could not but link surviving examples of the genre to its mainstream, which originated in the twelfth century. And since it is generally accepted that the thirteenth century in France is the period of allegorical, didactic, and bourgeois moralizing literature, a comprehensive history of epic and romance in this century does not yet really exist, and it is only recently that the prose romances have become a fertile field of study. Thus at least a historically neglected area is being investigated, while the apparently traditional Arthurian romances in verse have not benefited from this same revival in thirteenth-century studies. In this respect, it is interesting to note that between R. S. Loomis’s compendium of Arthurian literature and the new Grundriss der romanischen Literaturen des Mittelalters

nothing has really changed: there is still the same stopgap chapter by A. Micha on the so-called “Miscellaneous French Romances in Verse,”2 whereas other genres are integrated in a “courant littéraire.”