Vile birds and beasts in Jean Lemaire de Belges's Epîtres de l'Amant Vert

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This article studies the various physical, social, and moral criteria that determine villainy – in the various senses implied by Maurice de la Porte’s Epithetes (1571) – in Renaissance birds. It focuses primarily on Jean Lemaire de Belges’s Epîtres de l’Amant Vert (1505–11), two poems whose praise of Lemaire’s patron, Marguerite d’Autriche, is couched in praise of (and by) her pet parrot, the Amant Vert. For all that the poems show the Amant Vert’s distinctions between the vile and the noble to be confirmed in the afterlife, his serio-comic perception of himself as tragically noble risks destabilizing his narrative judgement: he is, after all, a parrot. The article therefore considers the ambiguity of the Amant Vert and the contrasting stability of his conceptions of the vile, comparing his criteria for determining villainy with those found in less paradoxical forms of writing. This study of villainy in Renaissance birds thereby tests how valuable a contribution such ambiguous or unstable genres as the serio-comic or the paradoxical may make to the study of shifting and versatile concepts such as the vile.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-113
JournalEarly Modern French Studies
Issue number2
Early online date13 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Vile
  • Birds
  • Jean Lemaire de Belges
  • Epîtres de l’Amant Vert
  • Serio-comic writing
  • Paradoxical encomia


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