Thus, despite all the local and authoritative Latin sources, if you want to know de tut le plus in this instance you need a book in French in that you need to read Gaimar s Estoire. It is interesting, then, given the Estoire s status as the earliest surviving French history book, that Gaimar suggests that historical writing in French is already in circulation; he also goes on to spar with a figure called Davit, whose work is implicitly also in French, but whose account of history Gaimar finds wanting, though he sings well of courtly intrigue.
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Given the status Gaimar assumes for French here, the purely insular circulation of the Estoire is striking. This cannot, however, be attributed to a lack of interest in his subject matter. This is not simply to do with the unmistakable Anglo-Norman phonological features found throughout the text see Short, Geffrei Gaimar xxxii xxxvii , which do not in and of themselves render the text incomprehensible to continental readers, nor would they preclude the transposition of the text into a more Continental form of French, which happens with other Anglo-Norman texts.
Interestingly, many passages of the Estoire seem clearly addressed to readers who also know English. This is a technique also used by Wace, but a good deal less frequently. It is not clear that rhymes such as these tell us anything about how the words were actually pronounced in a reading of the text, since the intention may have been to produce eye-rhymes, the spelling of the words may be modified in transmission, and all our surviving manuscripts postdate the composition of the text considerably.
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On the other hand, the high frequency of English proper nouns and the accuracy with which they are recorded in the Estoire suggests that it is the phonology of the French word that is implicitly modified by rhyming with an English word. In many instances of multilingual rhyming, a variety of parts of speech, not just proper Interfaces pp.
Elsewhere Gaimar uses unambiguously English words, and if, again as in Wace, some of these might have had some continental currency thanks precisely to Arthurian literature or indeed to the circulation of Wace s texts for example uthlages and elsewhere; wesheil and drincheil , others either have a quaintly franglais flavour e. Gaimar s use of French is therefore at one and the same time local and particularised, and yet it also plays on the status of French as a mobile, supralocal European language, like Latin.
As a writer he is not in any way dependent on French models, nor is he apparently concerned to reproduce the language of native French speakers from France. One important corollary, however, of Gaimar s French being directed at a Francophone readership with a good knowledge of English is the sharper focus this gives less on the mobility of texts in French per se since this text does not appear to have been particularly mobile than on the importance for his readers of knowing French in order to partake in certain types of supralocal, pan-european cultural and political networks, networks from which monolingual English or Welsh readers would by definition have been excluded.
Flanders c and Acre c I began the previous section by noting the focus in modern accounts of French literary history on twelfth-century texts.
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Indeed, apart from devotional texts, the two Interfaces pp. The following account draws on all these sources. When each of these texts is read in isolation, their particular articulation of history might seem rather different to that of Gaimar s Estoire. Yet as with Gaimar s Estoire, we have plenty of evidence that in reception at least and possibly in conception too , this narrative material is subsumed to a broader drive, that manifests itself with different ideological agendas in different parts of Europe, to produce a continuous history of Occidental culture running from Biblical history, through ancient history particularly as cathected through the Trojan myth, then often through Arthurian history, and finally to the medieval present day.
The Histoire thereby offers a vast universal history that effectively narrates the foundation of Europe, with particular attention to the seminal Trojan myth, for which it was an important vehicle of transmission in many parts of medieval Europe. Indeed, it is interesting that at various points in this collage of material from different sources, the term Europe seems to be used not simply to designate a geographical continent though clearly this is one of its meanings , but also a cultural entity, conflating Occidental Christendom with the European, and thereby making the Histoire a key early text for the emergence of a properly European identity.
In transmission it was sometimes associated with Li Fait des Romains and it is the compo- Interfaces pp. Furthermore, the Histoire s eccentric in every sense of the term manuscript transmission makes it a particularly interesting instance of the supralocal use of French: composed outside France, the earliest manuscript witnesses of this text, dating from the mid-thirteenth century, are from Acre in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and from Northern France.
There is then some transmission later in the century of this so-called first redaction in Italy and Northern France, deriving from the Levantine tradition, but later medieval versions from France demonstrably all derive from a copy of a substantially revised version made in Naples before London, British Library, Royal 20 D 1 , taken to France as a gift for the French king some time before , and written in a form of French with palpable linguistic traces of its Italian origin. This revised version is a substantively different text: it no longer includes Biblical material, and incorporates a much-expanded new Troy section.
The Histoire ancienne therefore demonstrates that the centrifugal model of textual transmission that is often assumed for major French literary texts, whereby texts are composed in France and then move outwards, is often quite erroneous. Indeed, the transmission of the Histoire is if anything centripetal with respect to France itself: the text seems to have skirted around France, only to return from further afield in a different form before gaining a more sustained readership in France.
Spiegel s pioneering work focuses on a group of texts in French that emerge mainly from Flanders in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries; these include the Histoire. She is not concerned with earlier historiographical texts written in French verse in England such as Gaimar s Estoire because her interest is in exploring the relation between the development of prose in French and the writing of vernacular history.
Crucially, Spiegel shows that the corpus of texts from Flanders she examines was written for, and promoted by, the chivalric nobility on the porous, unstable borders of France, not royalty as had sometimes previously been assumed. She compellingly locates in this corpus of texts the rise of vernacular prose historiography and central to this is what she sees as a move to create a clearer distinction between history on the one hand, and the fictions of prior romances on the other For Spiegel, the adoption of prose was key to this.
On the question of prose from a more literary perspective, see the brief but nuanced remarks of Baumgartner. On the crucially important BNF f. But the arguments in favour of the manuscript being from Acre advanced by Folda and Zinelli are compelling. On the verse segments see Szkilnik and Blumenfeld- Kosinski. Spiegel s conclusions have been widely accepted by both historians and literary scholars, but there are a number of problems here that are worth revisiting.
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Thus, despite her initially nuanced consideration of the cultural geography of Flanders, the texts under discussion become subsumed in her account to French historiography, and to a narrative that culminates in royal history. Yet this is to simplify their complex transmission through space and time and her argument fails to account adequately for the popularity of a text in French like the Histoire in Italy and the Eastern Mediterranean, distant from the historical context on the borders of Flanders and France in which she situates them.
Finally, many of the stylistic features and rhetorical moves concerning historical veracity that Spiegel regards as indices of the historical nature of these texts, are also ubiquitous in texts she, along with many literary critics, regards as more properly fictional or literary. It is, however, nonetheless striking that what France is becomes a matter of concern in this text, and thereby implicitly also a matter of concern to its geographically disparate readership. I shall comment briefly on two passages, the first taken from the text s lengthy verse prologue, the second a passage from the Aeneas section on the origins of France and of the king s of France.
As far as we can tell, the earliest version of the Histoire ancienne had a verse prologue of almost lines and many of its main narrative units were punctuated by moralising verse segments that gloss the action, sometimes precisely, sometimes rather loosely.
Spiegel s survey of Interfaces pp. Furthermore, as she herself realises, some manuscripts retain the text of the verse moralisations, but copying them as prose, or alternatively they prosify them fully. The contentions that the author s presence is felt more in the verse portions and that interpellations to the audience are progressively eliminated also require further investigation using a broader range of manuscripts. The verse prologue is the main source of information as to the text s Flemish origin, since it identifies Roger, castellan of Lille c c.
The first half of the prologue is a disquisition on fallen humanity and the vanity of wealth. This segues into a summary of the Histoire s contents and it is from this that we can infer that the text was originally supposed to bring universal history up to the present day. What, then, is the position of France in this account of history?
De ceus qui la loi Deu tenoient E lui e ses ovres amoient Ce covendra plenierement Dire sanz nul delaiement. Des quels gens Flandres fu puplee Vos iert l estoire bien contee, Com se proverent, quel il furent, Com il firent que fere durent. Coker Joslin It will be entirely fitting to tell all and without delay about those who upheld God s religion and loved his works.
About who was the first king of France, his Christian deeds and what he was called; and his descendants, who they were, how they conducted themselves, and about the fine churches they founded. After this it will be relayed to all how the Vandals, Goths and Huns pilfered France, devastated it and plundered the churches. And then you will be told about the Normans, their conquests and deeds, how they destroyed Germany, Cologne and prosperous France, Anjou, Poitou, all Burgundy; and let there be no doubt that Flanders was not attacked by these vile people, or harmed.
You will be told the story of what people populated Flanders, how they were tested, who there were, and what they did in order to survive so long. As this suggests, though the text remained unfinished, the original intention was a universal history serving the political interests of the Count of Flanders.
The plucky Flemish, in this historically dubious account, according to which the Normans laid Germany to waste, somehow resist, or are bypassed by, the invading Vandals, Goths and Huns, whereas the French have their lands decimated. Furthermore, the lengthy moralization with which the prologue opens might well lead readers to infer moral failings on the part of the more recent French, initially good Christians, and founders of great churches, but then prey to successive waves of destruction, first from the East, then from the Normans.
But what then is meant by France in this passage? Any reader with the modern Hexagon in mind might assume that Anjou, Poitou and Burgundy are invoked here as part of France. But Anjou at this point was still disputed between the Plantagenets and the Capetians, as anyone writing in Flanders for a patron in the mouvance of the fractious count of Flanders would surely have known, and Burgundy was largely at this stage part of the Empire, not subject to the king of France. France is invoked here, but its con- Interfaces pp.
The text is circumscribing France as much as defining it. Later in the text, the origins of France and of her kings are explicitly raised again.
The portion of the text I quote here from the Aeneas section is unedited. Friga fu nomes. Ains remest en Frige, cest en la terre de Troies, et o lui sa maisnee. Mais quant il vit qu il n i poroit arrester, qu il ne li convenist estre desous autrui segnori, et il s en parti et o lui grans gens toz de sa contree et de sa ligne, et lor femes et lor enfans. Et si se mistrent en mer [ Et il firent roi d un fill sien fiz, Fransios ot a non [ Seignors, cil puplerent cele terre, quar d aus vint et issi mout grans pueple. Et de ces dient li pluisor que li Fransois issirent, et orent non Fransois por lor roi qui estoit preus et hardis et Fransion ot a non en lor premerain language.
Et tels i a qui aferment et dient qu il vindrent premerainement d une isle qui Scanzia est apelee, dont li Got issirent, quar en cele isle a une terre qui iest encore France apelee. Et si mostrent cil qui ce dient tel raison encore que celle terre est auques voisine au regne qui fu au roi Latin qui fu pere a la royne Laivine que Eneas ot a feme.
De ceaus dient il ensi que Franse fu puplee. E peut bien estre qu adonques en celui tans i ariverent et vindrent et des uns et des autres. Mais n est mie certe choze li quel en orent des adonc la seignorie.
- Meaning of "Aue" in the German dictionary;
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- Iwein, First Edition;
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Mais des celui tans fu ele puplee. Some say that Aeneas had a brother, who was called Friga, who did not leave with Aeneas, rather he remained in Frige, which is the land around Troy, with his household. But when he realised it would not suit him to live subjected to another, he left, taking with him many people from his family lands, their wives and children. They took to sea [ He seized the realm between the Rhine and the Danube where no people had previously lived.
My lords, they populated this land, for many great peoples came forth and issued from them. And some say the French issued from them and that they are called French because of their king, who was worthy and bold, and called Fransio in their original language. And there are others who affirm and say that they came first from an island that is called Scandinavia, from which the Goths came. For in this island there is a land still called France. And those who say this adduce another reason: that this land was close by the kingdom of the Latin king who was the father of queen Lavinia, Aeneas wife.
And Aeneas called the Latins French, because they were nearby and subjected. Some say this is how they populated France. And this may be so, because in those days people came and went. But it is not certain which people exactly were in control from that point onwards. Yet [France] was populated from this point onwards. This passage offers competing accounts of the origin of France; one which locates France originally in the land of the Franks between the Rhine and the Danube portraying the French as descendants of a minor branch of Trojan royalty; then another in which the French come from Scandinavia, land of the Goths, believed by many to be an island in the Middle Ages, yet also here represented as near the Latin kingdom that Aeneas seized through marriage.
The geography of the relation between Scandinavia and the regne qui fu au roi latin here is fuzzy and frankly fanciful ; the implication that the French might in fact have originally been Goths is also at odds with the account of the Gothic invasions in the prologue. Perhaps all we can know for sure here is that nothing is certain n est mie certe chose says the narrator regarding the question of lordship in the period under discussion. Two chapters later the reader is offered yet another account of the origins of France and the French r 50r , one in which they descend from yet another group of migrating Trojans, who found a kingdom that is destroyed by Romans, as a result of which they fetch up in Germany, whence they take over France, then called Gaule.
They are called Fransois by emperor Valentinian because c est ausi com hardis e crueus v: this means bold and cruel.
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The cumulative effect of these conflicting accounts Interfaces pp. As the Histoire succinctly puts it: people at that time came and went. Be that as it may, France emerges here, in a text in French of early thirteenth-century Flemish provenance, and one that circulates extensively in the years following its composition in the Eastern Mediterranean and in Italy, more as a vague idea than as a geographically specific place or political entity, which is somewhat striking given this is precisely what it was clearly in the process of becoming.
This view of France in a text in French might also give pause for thought as to what the use of the language actually connoted. As Serge Lusignan s recent work has shown, fransois almost certainly does not become the standard term for designating French until later in the thirteenth century see particularly Essai, 84 The context of this line which makes the text s Flemish provenance and original audience clear explicitly uncouples our language from France.
Related Hartmann von Aue: Iwein - Welche Bedeutung hat der Brunnen für den Text? (German Edition)
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