An Introduction to the Chansons de Geste

An Introduction to the Chansons de Geste

by Catherine M. Jones


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“Intelligent, insightful, and superbly researched. Jones has succeeded especially well in presenting so many texts and recounting their stories with clarity, brevity, and a light hand.”—William Calin, author of The French Tradition and Literature of Medieval England


“An essential introduction to the Old French chanson de geste tradition, from basic texts to critical considerations of the genre including later versions in Europe and some lesser-known texts. Provides background for aspiring medievalists in many fields and engages readers with its lively presentations of critical discussions.”—Leslie Zarker Morgan, coeditor of Approaches to Teaching the “Song of Roland”


“An indispensable research tool for students and scholars of Old French literature. Its nuanced readings, informed by Jones’s admirable command of both previous and current scholarship, not only set the major French epics in a rich literary, social, and historical context but also reveal the continuing relevance of the ethical issues raised by these medieval poems. This book will make the teaching of La Chanson de Roland (and other French epic texts) a less daunting task for those of us who are not specialists. A welcome addition to my library!”—Elizabeth W. Poe, author of Compilatio


Loosely based on French history but often embellished in fantastical ways and written to be performed by minstrels and jongleurs, chansons de geste are one of the most important traditions of the French Middle Ages.

With an overview of the principal epic cycles, their literary and historical analogues, close readings, contemporary versions and allusions, notes on dates and versification, and a glossary of key terms, Catherine Jones makes these poems accessible to students and any reader interested in learning more about this lively genre. She presents an essential survey of traditional scholarship, such as debates about sources and elements of style, and raises intriguing contemporary questions related to alterity, gender, and genre. With its many critical layers, this book is ideal for undergraduates and teachers alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813061917
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Publication date: 09/15/2015
Series: New Perspectives on Medieval Literature: Authors and Traditions
Pages: 236
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Catherine M. Jones is Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of French and Provençal at the University of Georgia. She is the author of Philippe de Vigneulles and the Art of Prose Translation.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xv

1 The Historical and Poetic Context 1

2 The Texts-An Overview 26

3 Selected Works 59

La Chanson de Roland 60

Le Charroi de Nimes and La Prise d'Orange 80

Raoul de Cambrai 98

Ami et Amile 112

Huon de Bordeaux 125

Epilogue: The Legacy of the Chansons de Geste 136

Chansons de Geste-Dates and Versification 149

Notes 153

Glossary 179

Select Bibliography 187

Index 213

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