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Creole MedievalismColonial France and Joseph Bédier's Middle Ages$
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Michelle R. Warren

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816665259

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816665259.001.0001

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Roncevaux and Réunion

Roncevaux and Réunion

(p.1) Chapter 1 Roncevaux and Réunion
Creole Medievalism

Michelle R. Warren

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter analyses the interdependence of medievalism and colonialism in French republican discourse between 1870 and 1940, with particular interest to Réunion. From the loss of Alsace-Lorraine against Prussia in 1870 to the conquest of Madagascar and hostilities that culminated World War I, colonialism reconfigured national relations to both history and overseas identities. The medieval genre of the epic came to signify both the ancient origins of national prestige and the glories of expansionism. Medievalist scholars, including Joseph Bédier, participated actively in the promulgation of a colonial medievalism that served republican nationalism. The chapter also describes how colonialist metaphors underwrote the depiction of France’s Middle Ages as a cultured precedent to modern domination overseas. The conjunction of medievalism and colonialism thus enabled France to appear powerful and modern. Republican medievalism and colonialism illustrate clearly the double valence of both terms, invested alternately and simultaneously with “positive” and “negative” values.

Keywords:   medievalism, colonialism, French republican discourse, Réunion, national prestige, expansionism, Joseph Bédier, republican nationalism, colonialist metaphors

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