Repetition and redemption: On Saint Pierre et le Jongleur

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The fabliau “Saint Pierre et le Jongleur” parodies the Harrowing of Hell: instead of Christ descending into hell to engage in a debate with Satan over their respective rights to the dead, the thirteenthcentury text describes Saint Peter entering the inferno to gamble with a jongleur recently relegated there. Their subsequent, raucous dice-play determines the futures of the gathered souls, as well as humankind’s possibilities for redemption and the emergent shape of sacred history. The essay explores the relationship among chance, repetition, and compulsion that such a dice game suggests, arguing that the poem demonstrates how we are moved to repeat stories in order to confirm their shape, even as that pleasurable work threatens to revise them. Saint Pierre et le Jongleur invites readers to consider how certain major narratives are compulsively retold for the titillating and unsettling chance that a new ending might take form.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-332
Number of pages20
JournalViator - Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


  • Chaucer
  • Fabliaux
  • Harrowing of Hell
  • Jongleurs
  • Parody
  • Piers Plowman
  • Poetic form
  • Repetition
  • Saint Pierre et le Jongleur
  • The future


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