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Strange Words

Strange Words

Retelling and Reception in the Medieval Roland Textual Tradition

Margaret Jewett Burland

Strange Words offers separate but interrelated close readings of four medieval Roland texts in French and Occitan, paying particular attention to scenes in which the speeches of various characters perform or mirror narrative functions. In this clearly written and accessible book, Margaret Jewett Burland focuses on discourse and narrative within the fictional universe to argue persuasively that medieval authors and audiences understood the battle of Roncevaux and its aftermath as an appropriate story in which to incorporate implicit commentaries about contemporary issues. It allows readers to interpret the well-known Oxford version, The Song of Roland, within the expanded context of its larger medieval textual tradition. The similarities and differences among the four versions Burland analyzes help modern readers to better appreciate which aspects of a given Roland text are most innovative and thus most suggestive of its particular political, social, or literary agenda.

Strange Words is the first book in fifty years to compare multiple medieval Roland texts, and the first to do so in English. It will be welcomed by students and scholars of French and medieval studies.

Strange Words: Retelling And Reception In The Medieval Roland Textual Tradition makes an original contribution to the field of studies on the textual tradition of the Chanson de Roland, and beyond that to studies of the medieval French epic and of medieval French literature. It is the only study of its kind since Jules Horrent’s 1951 book La Chanson de Roland dans les littératures française et espagnole au moyen áge.” —Joseph J. Duggan, University of California, Berkeley

" Strange Words offers the first major monograph on the French Roland corpus in all of its fascinating variety. Margaret Jewett Burland argues compellingly for understanding the Roland narratives as a group of self-conscious literary creations, written by people deeply concerned about the place of historical memory in their respective cultural milieus. Strange Words will surely become an obligatory starting point for future studies of Roncevaux.” —Michelle Warren, Dartmouth College

“Margaret Jewett Burland’s Strange Words: Retelling and Reception in the Medieval Roland Textual Tradition offers a perceptive and persuasive look not just at the Oxford Roland, but more importantly at what she terms the “Roncevaux tradition” that follows in its wake. Understanding the subsequent reception of the Roland material produces not only provocative insights into important but long overlooked avatars of Oxford, but also fresh angles on the masterpiece itself by placing it firmly within the tradition of medieval rewriting.” —William W. Kibler, emeritus, University of Texas at Austin

ISBN: 978-0-268-02203-7
344 pages
Publication Year: 2007

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Margaret Jewett Burland is an independent scholar. She is co-editor of Meaning and Its Objects: Material Culture in Medieval and Renaissance France.

“With a series of powerful close readings, Strange Words shows how extensively central issues in the Roncevaux tradition, such as the proper evaluation of Roland’s pride, Charlemagne’s grief, or Ganelon’s treachery, are reassessed in different versions.” — Speculum

“Burland does an excellent job . . . pointing out what is different and intriguing about the other versions she examines, and one would hope that this would spark a new interest in these texts that have been unjustifiably ignored. This point alone makes Burland’s work both important and essential reading for those studying ‘the’ Song of Roland.” – H-France Review

“When students and scholars speak of The Song of Roland, they generally refer to the text in the manuscript Digby 23 at Oxford University, but American scholar of French language and literature Burland points out that the story of the deaths of Roland and the 12 peers of France at the Battle of Roncevaux circulated in countless oral and written versions. She considers the larger story of which the manuscript is but a single example, emphasizing its function in affirming and questioning individual and collective identities across time.” — Research Book News

“_Strange Words_ will be useful for anyone studying medieval and early modern French literature. From the outset, Burland does us a great service simply by reminding us that there are other versions of The Song of Roland — not just the version at Oxford with which scholars and students are all too familiar. . .”. — The Sixteenth Century Journal

“Too often critical focus on ‘the Roland tradition’ has been centered entirely on the Oxford Roland; this study is a refreshing change. Burland examines how the battle of Roncevaux is remembered and retold in the Oxford Roland, the Chateauroux version, the Occitan Ronsasvals, and Galien restore . . . Burland is in line with a renewed critical awareness of the implications of a manuscript culture and moves away from the critical assumption that the Oxford Roland is the Chanson de Roland, thus filling an important gap on our bookshelves and inviting similar examinations of other widespread narrative traditions.” — Medium Aevum

“Burland derives a valuable model for speculating on this dimension through her close analysis of character discourse. She finds that characters in Roncevaux poems not only produce narrative for one another but also receive, negotiate, accept, or reject narratives, providing evidence that composers of these texts anticipated and acknowledged the agency of their own audiences.” — Modern Philology

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Strange Words

Retelling and Reception in the Medieval Roland Textual Tradition

Margaret Jewett Burland

 Strange Words: Retelling and Reception in the Medieval Roland Textual Tradition
Paper Edition

Strange Words offers separate but interrelated close readings of four medieval Roland texts in French and Occitan, paying particular attention to scenes in which the speeches of various characters perform or mirror narrative functions. In this clearly written and accessible book, Margaret Jewett Burland focuses on discourse and narrative within the fictional universe to argue persuasively that medieval authors and audiences understood the battle of Roncevaux and its aftermath as an appropriate story in which to incorporate implicit commentaries about contemporary issues. It allows readers to interpret the well-known Oxford version, The Song of Roland, within the expanded context of its larger medieval textual tradition. The similarities and differences among the four versions Burland analyzes help modern readers to better appreciate which aspects of a given Roland text are most innovative and thus most suggestive of its particular political, social, or literary agenda.

Strange Words is the first book in fifty years to compare multiple medieval Roland texts, and the first to do so in English. It will be welcomed by students and scholars of French and medieval studies.

Strange Words: Retelling And Reception In The Medieval Roland Textual Tradition makes an original contribution to the field of studies on the textual tradition of the Chanson de Roland, and beyond that to studies of the medieval French epic and of medieval French literature. It is the only study of its kind since Jules Horrent’s 1951 book La Chanson de Roland dans les littératures française et espagnole au moyen áge.” —Joseph J. Duggan, University of California, Berkeley

" Strange Words offers the first major monograph on the French Roland corpus in all of its fascinating variety. Margaret Jewett Burland argues compellingly for understanding the Roland narratives as a group of self-conscious literary creations, written by people deeply concerned about the place of historical memory in their respective cultural milieus. Strange Words will surely become an obligatory starting point for future studies of Roncevaux.” —Michelle Warren, Dartmouth College

“Margaret Jewett Burland’s Strange Words: Retelling and Reception in the Medieval Roland Textual Tradition offers a perceptive and persuasive look not just at the Oxford Roland, but more importantly at what she terms the “Roncevaux tradition” that follows in its wake. Understanding the subsequent reception of the Roland material produces not only provocative insights into important but long overlooked avatars of Oxford, but also fresh angles on the masterpiece itself by placing it firmly within the tradition of medieval rewriting.” —William W. Kibler, emeritus, University of Texas at Austin

ISBN: 978-0-268-02203-7

344 pages

“With a series of powerful close readings, Strange Words shows how extensively central issues in the Roncevaux tradition, such as the proper evaluation of Roland’s pride, Charlemagne’s grief, or Ganelon’s treachery, are reassessed in different versions.” — Speculum

“Burland does an excellent job . . . pointing out what is different and intriguing about the other versions she examines, and one would hope that this would spark a new interest in these texts that have been unjustifiably ignored. This point alone makes Burland’s work both important and essential reading for those studying ‘the’ Song of Roland.” – H-France Review

“When students and scholars speak of The Song of Roland, they generally refer to the text in the manuscript Digby 23 at Oxford University, but American scholar of French language and literature Burland points out that the story of the deaths of Roland and the 12 peers of France at the Battle of Roncevaux circulated in countless oral and written versions. She considers the larger story of which the manuscript is but a single example, emphasizing its function in affirming and questioning individual and collective identities across time.” — Research Book News

“_Strange Words_ will be useful for anyone studying medieval and early modern French literature. From the outset, Burland does us a great service simply by reminding us that there are other versions of The Song of Roland — not just the version at Oxford with which scholars and students are all too familiar. . .”. — The Sixteenth Century Journal

“Too often critical focus on ‘the Roland tradition’ has been centered entirely on the Oxford Roland; this study is a refreshing change. Burland examines how the battle of Roncevaux is remembered and retold in the Oxford Roland, the Chateauroux version, the Occitan Ronsasvals, and Galien restore . . . Burland is in line with a renewed critical awareness of the implications of a manuscript culture and moves away from the critical assumption that the Oxford Roland is the Chanson de Roland, thus filling an important gap on our bookshelves and inviting similar examinations of other widespread narrative traditions.” — Medium Aevum

“Burland derives a valuable model for speculating on this dimension through her close analysis of character discourse. She finds that characters in Roncevaux poems not only produce narrative for one another but also receive, negotiate, accept, or reject narratives, providing evidence that composers of these texts anticipated and acknowledged the agency of their own audiences.” — Modern Philology