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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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Island Philology

Island Philology

(p.117) Chapter 4 Island Philology
Creole Medievalism

Michelle R. Warren

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter explores how Joseph Bédier turns to memories of “Bourbon” in each of his most influential and popular publications: his dissertation Les Fabliaux, his rewriting of Tristan et Iseut, his study of the epic tradition in Les légendes épiques, and his edition and translation of Roland. In each of these works, Bédier constructs medieval French literature as a purely national tradition, minimizing and even negating outside influences, be they Indian, Celtic, or Germanic. Paradoxically, Bédier fortifies this vision of cultural homogeneity through colonial memory. In the Fabliaux and Légendes épiques, for example, he supports his scientific arguments with anecdotes that derive from Réunion. Bédier’s idea of literary history thus originates as much from colonial experience as from historical study. Each of them reveals the creole in the medieval—just as Bédier’s biography reveals the medieval in the creole.

Keywords:   Joseph Bédier, Bourbon, Les Fabliaux, Tristan et Iseut, Les légendes épiques, Roland, medieval French literature, cultural homogeneity, colonial memory

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