The cloning of the Karlamagnús aga in Anglo-French textual criticism

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URI: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:21-opus-10673
http://hdl.handle.net/10900/46205
Dokumentart: Teil einer Konferenzveröffentlichung
Date: 2002
Language: English
Faculty: 5 Philosophische Fakultät
Department: Sonstige - Neuphilologie
DDC Classifikation: 839 - Other Germanic literatures
Keywords: Saga , Island
Other Keywords:
Karlamagnussaga , Middle English Charlemagne romances
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Abstract:

My goal in this paper is to chart the relationship between the 19th- and 20th-century critical work on the “Karlamagnussaga” and the criticism engaging a dozen analogous Middle English Charlemagne romances. I start from the observation that in the work of foundational 19th-century medievalists like Gaston Paris there is a clear desire to "see" individual Middle English Charlemagne texts as the remnants of a hypothetical larger cyclic work which closely resembles the saga form. I then observe that other medieval textual critics in the later 19th and 20th centuries (chiefly in England and America) inherited Paris' over-enthusiastic notion and further developed an extensive theory of the dissemination and inscription of the Middle English Charlemagne romances which allowed them to describe and discuss the texts as if they were in fact the remnants of a saga-the fragments of a broader legendary and historical fiction under the control of a single directing hand, and with a core of coherent aesthetic principles controlling its structural elements, even to the extent of providing fictional names for this English "saga" and its author. The observations and claims made by these scholars remain largely unusable to the 21st-century medievalist, especially to scholars interested in the variety of forms of late medieval historiography and to those interested in the Charlemagne legends and in propaganda works like the “Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle”. The key element of this concise and interesting thread of textual criticism to me, however, is its response to, and reliance on, the saga as an ideal model of heroic storytelling-a reliance so tenacious, in fact, that well into the modern period we can find scholars willingly reconstructing a variety of otherwise unrelated poetic texts into a larger saga-like fantasy of the past.

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