Jean Bodel was perhaps the most versatile and influential author of his time and place, late 12th century Arras, which in now located in northern France. He is known for giving us a first definition of genre, writing that there are three “materials,” those of France (about the history and kings of France), Rome (ancient tales and history), and Britain (stories of Arthur and his court). He wrote exclusively in the “material” of France, but in terms of modern genres, he wrote poetry, epic, and theater. His miracle play, the Jeu de saint Nicolas, is widely considered the first non-liturgical play written in French, and he was a trendsetter with his scandalous fabliaux, as well. He also wrote poetry, including pastourelles (poems set in the countryside), and an epic tale centered around Charlemagne and his crusades to the north. Bodel influenced later authors from Adam de la Halle to Chaucer and François Villon. Despite his impact and diversity of authorial skills, Bodel is not as well known to the English-speaking world as his importance would suggest he should be.

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