- Jade A. Bailey, ‘Fierabras and the Livre de Charlemaine in London, British Library, MS Royal 15.E.VI : an Edition and Study’, University of Bristol (2014).
British Library MS Royal 15.E.VI, sometimes called the Shrewsbury Book, is a fifteenth-century anthology of French chansons de geste, romances, chronicles and military treatises on the theme of chivalry. Commissioned by Sir John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and captain of Rouen during the Lancastrian occupation, it was presented to the new queen of England, Marguerite d’Anjou, as a wedding gift in 1445. The second item in the anthology is a collection of three chansons de geste from the geste du roi, presented together as the Livre de Charlemaine. The subject of this thesis is an edition and study of the manuscript’s redaction of the third of these chansons de geste, Fierabras. Despite the considerable scholarship that this codex has generated, very little work has been done on the texts themselves, and the Livre de Charlemaine texts – copied from texts composed in the twelfth or thirteenth centuries – have never been edited. This thesis makes available for the first time an edition of this fifteenth-century version of Fierabras, offering a detailed analysis of the text in relation to the wider tradition, and assesses its contribution to the manuscript.
Part One considers the Livre de Charlemaine and Fierabras in context, following a ‘broad-to-narrow’ approach that begins with a description of the manuscript, moving through a discussion of the existing scholarship relating to the anthology’s purpose and its creation and an examination of its textual and visual representations of Charlemagne, leading finally to an in-depth analysis of the text of Fierabras itself and its relationship to the tradition. Part Two presents my critical edition to the first 1,138 lines of the text, including critical notes and editorial principles. A basic edition of the remainder of the poem (without notes) is included as an appendix.
- Emma Copeland, ‘Fierabras to Stair Fortibrais: A comparative analysis of the chanson de geste and its adaptations in Ireland’, University of Edinburgh (2016).
Despite its apparent popularity in fifteenth-century Ireland – as attested by its presence in eight manuscripts – Stair Fortibrais, the Irish adaptation of the twelfth-century chanson de geste of the cycle du roi Fierabras has received very little scholarly attention. This fact proves especially unfortunate since, in addition to its contributions to the field of medieval translation studies, the text also possesses particular relevance for two important trends in recent scholarship, one concerning Celtic Studies and the other more broadly Continental in scope. In the case of the former, researchers have begun to consider how translations can inform the interpretation of the greater corpus of medieval Irish literature. The latter relates to an interest in the person of Charlemagne himself as a pan-European figure. As an Irish translation of a poem from the cycle du roi, Stair Fortibrais has much to contribute to both these academic discussions.
Because the text remains relatively unknown, this thesis is by design intended largely as a scholarly introduction to the material. It seeks to present data about the text and serve as a guide to some of its most important themes. The Introduction provides basic information about Stair Fortibrais and its Hiberno-Latin source Gesta Karoli Magni and their unique place amongst Irish translation literature. The body of the thesis is composed of four chapters. The first examines all manuscripts containing the Irish adaptation as well as the single codex featuring its Latin source. More specifically, it considers how its placement within the manuscripts provides guidance for interpreting the text. While the contents of some codices suggest the historiographical importance of Stair Fortibrais, its association with religious material proves especially prominent. In particular, the text often appears in conjunction with works which concern the relics of the passion, crusades or pilgrimages and (somewhat less commonly) the interactions between Christians and Jews.
All three remaining chapters compare the Irish adaptation – and, where appropriate, its fragmentary Latin source – with Fierabras. The second chapter discusses additions, reordering, reduction/omission and substitution in Stair Fortibrais in an attempt to determine the adaptor’s translation technique, with a particular emphasis on patterns in his approach. The adaptor appears closely aligned with medieval translation practice in two important respects. First, the evidence strongly suggests that he adapted the text either in small units or as he read. Secondly, many of the alterations, particularly the more numerous substitutions and reductions/omissions, appear to result from a desire to increase the clarity of the work for its new audience.
The penultimate chapter analyses the adaptation’s treatment of some of the chanson de geste’s important themes. It is divided into three sections: Character Studies, Religion and the Supernatural and Religion and Historiography. In general, the translator’s treatment of these topics proves broadly consistent with his source. However, he tends to present the characters in a slightly more positive manner and he prefers to emphasise reverence over proselytizing. The final chapter studies topics both political – rank and feudal duties – and cultural – family, unity, and moderate behaviour – which appear to have particularly interested the adaptor but which do not feature prominently in the French poem. The conclusion of the thesis postulates that, through a series of subtle but carefully-considered alterations, the adaptor sought not only to clarify the narrative and increase its appeal to the Irish audience, but also to re-frame the story as an episode in salvation history. Thus, Stair Fortibrais is not merely a translation, but a cultural re-appropriation of Fierabras.
- Suzanne Leedham, ‘The Impact of Charlemagne and Roncevaux in English Literature and Culture from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries’, University of Reading (2013).
This thesis establishes for the first time the reach and relevance of the figure of Charlemagne and the Battle of Roncevaux in England in late medieval and post-medieval narratives. It is divided into two sections which fall either side of the twentieth century. In the first section, a historical account of the earlier tradition is given through detailed reading of four Middle English Charlemagne narratives and appearances of Charlemagne or Roland during the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. The thesis considers each narrative in light of its social, political and historical context as well as alongside other narratives in the tradition in order to establish the latter’s continuing impact and the individual characteristics of each narrative within it. In the second section, the number and variety of narratives found has demanded a different structure, in which twentieth- and twenty-first-century texts are considered as subdivisions of historical fiction. The most important contribution made by the thesis is the underlining of repeated occurrences of ideas of heroism and authority in light of contemporaneous concerns about threats to community and loyalty, as a result of which Charlemagne and Roland become representative of morality and firm belief. Although the appearance of these themes in themselves may not be surprising, the wide variety of situations in which they occur and characteristics which they imbue varies intriguingly from discussions of medieval heresy, through a seventeenth-century satirical portrait of Charlemagne and a nineteenth-century Gothic, Romantic Roland, to twenty-first-century feminism, eco-terrorism, children’s literature, metal music, a Ro-Land theme park and even the unlikely pairing of Charlemagne and Sonic the Hedgehog. The thesis contributes to knowledge about medieval translation, late Middle English literature, historical literature, medievalism, and Orientalism. Most importantly, it determines Charlemagne and Roncevaux as consistent, relevant, and sometimes unpredictable and dynamic motifs in English literature since their first appearance there in the fifteenth century.