Typically, objectification is a demeaning and disempowering practice. Object-oriented ontology, though, elevates and empowers objects, inverting the typical implications of objectification (perhaps even encouraging it). An object-oriented reading of Marie de France’s Yonec objectifies bodies in a peculiar way. It distinguishes them from the minds or souls that reside within them, while insisting that there should still be parallels (if not union) between the two.
The young lady uses this technique herself to deny her old husband a soul, referring to him as “this jealous man, / who married me to his body” (83-4). Demonizing and objectifying him, the lady rejects any spiritual tie to her husband, making their marriage a mere marriage of bodies. Her own body tainted by his, she lets its beauty go “as one does who cares nothing for it” (48). Divorcing herself from her body takes quite a toll on it, but hopefully preserves her soul.
She later learns, though, the value of the body (and beauty, for only beautiful bodies have value, it seems). Her newfound lover reminds her that the soul and body are ideally one, using his body (though her appearance) “to receive the body of our lord God” (162). The lord’s very body is sacred, and can be accessed through the body. Given this reminder that the body is meant to house the soul, “[h]er body had now become precious to her” (215). Re-embracing her body as her own, her home for Christ and romantic love, “she completely recovered her beauty” (216). The body cannot house the soul if they do not reflect each other. By this mutual dependency, the soul cannot be preserved by abandoning the body (as she tried with her marriage of bodies), any more than the body bloom without a soul.
Although I very much enjoyed reading Le Fresne, I saw the interchanging of Fresne and Codre as surprising and offensive given the knights past adoration for Fresne. He fell in love with Fresne by merely hearing about her beauty and noble character, donated much of his land to the abbey and completely changed his lifestyle to be with her. He brought her back to his castle where everyone regarded her highly, but when his vassals warned him that if he should have a child out of wedlock they would desert him, he drops all allegiance to Fresne and readily agrees to marry a stranger. Though his feelings for Fresne were once important to him, the sanctification of a noble marriage to qualify his own status becomes more important.
In this way, marriage to a woman in the right class is objectified and becomes a pivotal “thing” in the story of Le Fresne. Despite her obvious noble behavior and stoicism in the face of heartbreak, the right marriage leading to noble social status and acceptance, would have led to the downfall of Fresne if the mother had not recognized her as her own daughter. We have talked about “everything” being an active “thing”, not only objects. In this story, it was interesting to think of something like marriage, a non-material “thing”, having such a large role in the characters lives and decisions. Even when Fresne is recognized and Codre and the knights marriage is annuled, the story is said to have a happy ending because Codre found a good marriage, and therefore everyone get’s what they need: Marriage to “the right person”.
The inability to find true love is the loyal and courageous knight, Guigemar’s great flaw. In class we discussed that for a knight to truly play his role to society correctly he must be both a warrior and a loyal lover to a woman. In the tale of Guigemar, we see his struggle to find the missing piece to his knightly persona. Initially, he is just not interested in love and this makes him an unnatural specimen. The fact that during the time of Marie de France people believed that love was essential to a knight seems unusual. This could support the idea that men were aware that women actually did have something worthwhile to offer to them.
The need for a woman as a sort of partner is also present in the story of the generous Sir Cleges. In this knight’s tale Sir Cleges falls out of society when he is struck by poverty. His wife is pivotal in this story as she plays the role of a level headed and optimistic instructor. It is her idea to use the abnormally winter thriving cherries to gain her husband’s status back. This plan of action would have never been put into play by her husband who immediately wished to destroy the cherries believing that their ability to grow in the winter was a bad omen.
The idea that someone is unnatural if they do not marry or engage in a love affair still seems to hold true in today’s society. It is estimated that 160,000,000 people out of a rough total of 317,042,000 in the United States are in heterosexual marriages and most of these marriages result in an egalitarian family. In this popular egalitarian family structure husbands and wives commit to an equal partnership in which both partners function more positively and successfully with the help of the other. These families work with relatively equal roles between parents. Maybe stories of knights like Guigemar and Sir Cleges were the first examples of very primary egalitarian families or even the precursors to the egalitarian structure. Although Guigemar and Sir Cleges’ wives were not what we would consider equal partners in today’s society because they were more similar to assistants, these husbands still needed their partners to help them function better in society. This emphasizes the idea that each partner needs the other to fit into society and to be more successful.