The portrayal of warfare in Old French literature c. 1150 - c. 1270
This thesis examines the way in which warfare is portrayed in a corpus of Old French chronicles, epics and romances. Depictions of war and combat are frequent in twelfth- and thirteenth-century French texts, and it is our hypothesis that these scenes are valuable sources of information, both for the factual details of medieval warfare and for contemporary perceptions of it. The discussion is divided into four main parts. Chapter H provides a contextual framework for the study of war in Old French literature by examining the ideals and reality of medieval warfare; it covers both practical and conceptual aspects. Our literary analysis begins in chapter III with the examination of a corpus of Old French chronicles; we seek to establish whether these ostensibly factual accounts of campaigns provide accurate and realistic representations of war, and we also examine the status of chronicles as entertaining narratives. Chapter IV analyses the depictions of war and combat in a selection of chansons de geste, seeking to establish whether "epic exaggeration" serves a particular narrative purpose in these scenes; chapter V examines a corpus of Old French romances, exploring the theme of war with a view to discovering whether this most "fictional" of our genres portrays combat in a realistic manner. Throughout the thesis we seek to examine both how war is depicted and why it should be portrayed in that particular manner. We conclude that, far from being repetitive or stereotyped, the scenes of war in our corpus are carefully-constructed episodes which form a vital and integral part of our narratives; we also suggest that, in order to understand them fully, the modem reader needs both a knowledge of the reality of medieval warfare and an appreciation of the literary conventions and cultural codes with which the author and audience were working.