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Eating others : symbolic and actual anthropophagy in médiéval storytelling

Eating your lover’s otherness

The narrative theme of the Eaten Heart in the Lai d’Ignaure
Amy Heneveld
p. 393-412


The Eaten Heart is a cannibalistic narrative theme that appears regularly in a range of medieval writings. As a love story, it’s a gruesome reminder of both the pleasures and the pains of love. In the Lai d’Ignaure, the author infuses the tragic with the comedic, creating a tension for the reader around how to interpret the tale. Through the representation of female desire, cannibalism becomes a metaphor for love and reading, teaching how to erase the distance between self and other.

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Full text document will be published online on December 2021.

First lines

The Eaten Heart is a narrative motif that appears repeatedly in the written record of medieval French literature: first sung by Yseut in Thomas’Tristan, it appears in the vida of troubadour named Guillem de Cabestaing, in a short lai, and in several longer romances. It was persistently rewritten in a range of genres up until at least the nineteenth century. As its name suggests, it describes a love story with a morbid end. A jealous husband takes revenge on his adulterous wife by killing her lover, having his heart and occasionally other body parts cooked and feeding it to her. In its medieval context, female desire thus explicitly frames the story and its proscriptive lesson initially appears to be straightforward, especially as female readers or listeners may have understood it: be true to your matrimonial vows and accept constraints on your desire or suffer the consequences. Yet the tale also glorifies erotic love, through the sacrifice of the lovers, and thus the message of the ...


Bibliographical reference

Amy Heneveld, « Eating your lover’s otherness », Cahiers de recherches médiévales et humanistes, 36 | 2018, 393-412.

Electronic reference

Amy Heneveld, « Eating your lover’s otherness », Cahiers de recherches médiévales et humanistes [Online], 36 | 2018, Online since 01 December 2021, connection on 11 August 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Amy Heneveld

University of Geneva

By this author

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