Feudal France in the French Epic: A Study of Feudal French Institutions in History and Poetryby George Baer Fundenburg
At the outset of this study it is desirable to make a definite analysis of the meaning of the term French Epic Poetry and what part of this corpus is to be styled Feudal Poetry. In a large sense almost all narrative works in verse composed prior to the fourteenth century, and dealing even remotely with/i>/i>/i>
From the INTRODUCTION - French Epic Poetry.
At the outset of this study it is desirable to make a definite analysis of the meaning of the term French Epic Poetry and what part of this corpus is to be styled Feudal Poetry. In a large sense almost all narrative works in verse composed prior to the fourteenth century, and dealing even remotely with life in France, are known as the French Epic. The designation covers a long period of composition, and a wide variety of material and treatment. It includes the Chanson de Roland of the primitive period, and at the other extreme of age and style the Cligés and similar works of Chrétien de Troyes.
The age of the first production of epic poetry in France has long been a question of dispute. Almost as many answers have been given as there are scholars in the field. Gaston Paris and Gautier have supported the theory of the origin of the epic poetry in the cantilènes, i.e., short songs that were first composed on the field of battle by the warriors, who were also poets-these songs at some less remote time being developed into the chansons de geste as they are preserved in the manuscripts of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Rajna, Gröber, and Jordan, have maintained that the chansons are direct continuations of ancient chansons composed, in form similar to those extant, as early as the sixth and seventh centuries. Suchier, Wechssler (also Paul Meyer and Ferdinand Lot), have upheld the opinion that the epic material existed in the remote Middle Ages in the form of legends upon which were based the chansons, less ancient in formation than the legends. Finally, Becker (and Jullian) and Bédier, in the last decade or two, have attempted to demonstrate that the French epic poetry is of comparatively recent origin.
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