Matter of France
The Matter of France, is the second of the three great “matters” of medieval European
literature. The first, the Matter of Britain, deals with King Arthur and legends and myths
associated with him; the third, the Matter of Rome, deals with material from classical history and mythology.
The Matter of France is sometimes called the Carolingian Cycle as it springs from the historical figure of Charlemagne, to whose existence has been attached a body of literature and legendary material associated with the history (and pseudo-history) of France, the Crusades, and the Holy Land.
This course will begin with the historical Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire, and then examine the more romantic Charlemagne and his Twelve Peers (or Paladins), as they appear in the Old French chansons de geste, providing inspiration and subject matter for medieval and Renaissance epics, art, and, later, novels and operas.
Tentatively, this course will proceed as follows:
- First Session: The historical Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire
- Second Session: The Song of Roland and the introduction of the Twelve Peers
- Third Session: The Twelve Peers in Italy and Jerusalem
- Fourth Session: The Northern connections: Ogier the Dane; Valentine and Orson, Willehalm (Charlemagne’s cousin), and others
- Fifth Session: The Southern French connection. Charlemagne in Occitania. The troubadours, their poetry, and the invention of Courtly Love.
- Sixth Session: Everything else, including modern adaptations