Medieval Studies 301

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MEDIEVAL STUDIES 301 European Literature from the 5th to the 14th Century: Arthur vs. Charlemagne: the Matter of Britain and the Matter of France in Medieval French Literature (3 credits)

(cross-listed with FREN348 French Literature in Translation)

Term 2: MWF 10:00-11:00 am

Prof. Patrick Moran, Department of French,
Hispanic and Italian Studies
Office: Buchanan Tower TBA       

Medieval fiction is fond of expansive narrative “Matters”, shared universes that find their inspiration in the legendary past and are built collaboratively over decades or even centuries. But a Matter is not just a set of characters, themes and subjects: it also has ideological and aesthetic implications. The Matter of France, built around the semi-mythical exploits of Charlemagne and his warriors in their defence of the Christian faith, and the Matter of Britain, which focuses on Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table and their adventures, are two of the most popular representatives of this literary practice in the French-speaking world. They manifest themselves in different genres: chanson de geste on one hand and roman (romance) on the other. The romances of Chrétien de Troyes will form the basis of our study of the Matter of Britain (mainly The Knight of the Cart and The Story of the Grail). We will study the Matter of France through its most famous representative, the Song of Roland, as well as another lesser known song, the Voyage de Charlemagne. Through the study of representative works of these two Matters, we will see how aesthetic decisions and ideological choices go hand in hand, constructing narratives that express the contradictions and aspirations of 11th to 13th century medieval society.

Required texts

Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances (Penguin Classics, 1991)

The Song of Roland and Other Poems of Charlemagne (Oxford World’s Classics, 2017)