The Use of Chanson de geste Motifs in the Latin Texts of the First Crusade, c. 1095-1145

Simon Parsons

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The relationship between the earliest Latin texts on the subject of the First Crusade and the genre of French vernacular epic poetry known as the chansons de geste has been frequently asserted in previous scholarship, but without sustained or meaningful analysis of the nature of any resemblance. These posited relationships have been claimed without detailed consideration of the genres as a whole. Instead, individual works have been viewed in comparative isolation. This thesis, which constitutes an original assessment of this historiographical position by relating it to the real natures of the two genres under discussion, seeks to redress these inadequacies in the scholarly study of the crusade texts, and position both genres within the literary culture of the late-eleventh and early-twelfth centuries. Seventeen key Latin texts and several shorter works written or composed in the period under investigation are the subject of analysis alongside a wide range of chansons de geste. The conclusion is reached that the postulated relationship is, in most but not all of the ways previously considered, a meaningful one, and that texts across the Latin crusading genre are profoundly influenced by the vernacular epic. It is further shown that the resemblance is greater at certain narrative points, denser in epic phrasings and references across the corpus, than others: in particular Dorylaeum, Antioch, and Ascalon. In part, this provides rare additional evidence for the debate about the genesis and development of the Latin genre, which has long been hypothesized to be linked to vernacular retellings, either oral or written. Furthermore, the systematic analysis of this relationship elucidates the poorly understood processes of textual memorialization of the First Crusade, and suggests that the participants of the expedition, or the redactors of the texts, were semiotically prepared to experience the crusade in accordance with existing epic models
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Phillips, Jonathan, Supervisor
Award date17 May 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

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