The Epic Quarrel: Racial Origins and National Identity in Mid-Nineteenth-Century France (1859-1870)

Colleen Hays


With the advent of Romanticism and Nationalism in the nineteenth century, French literary scholars turned to a study of medieval works, especially after the discovery of the Chanson de Roland and its publication in 1837. After scholars had established the Roland as the French epic in mid-century (often touted as the French Iliad), they turned to the nebulous topic of the origin of the Roland's spirit. The controversy centred on the epic's racial origin, with French scholars debating its possible Celtic, Germanic, or French genesis, illustrating French scholars' ambiguity and confusion concerning their national identity.

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