An Introduction to the Chansons de Geste

Catherine M. Jones

Foreword by R. Barton Palmer and Tison Pugh, Series Editors
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"An essential introduction to the Old French chanson de geste tradition, from basic texts to critical considerations of the genre."--Leslie Zarker Morgan, coeditor of Approaches to Teaching the "Song of Roland"

"Intelligent, insightful, and superbly researched. Jones has succeeded especially well in presenting so many texts and recounting their stories with clarity, brevity, and a light hand."--William Calin, author of The French Tradition and Literature of Medieval England

"An indispensable research tool for students and scholars of Old French literature."--Elizabeth W. Poe, author of Compilatio


Old French epic poems, or chansons de geste, are one of the most important traditions of the French Middle Ages. Consisting of approximately 120 poems including the famous Song of Roland, these tremendously popular songs were based on French history but often embellished in fantastical ways and written to be performed by minstrels.

With an overview of the principal epic cycles, close readings of six major poems, and a glossary of key terms, Catherine Jones makes the chansons de geste accessible to students and any reader interested in learning more about this lively genre. She also presents an essential survey of traditional scholarship, such as debates about sources and elements of style, and raises intriguing contemporary questions related to alterity, gender, and genre. With its many critical layers, this book is ideal for undergraduates and teachers alike.

Catherine M. Jones is Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of French and Provençal at the University of Georgia. She is the author of Philippe de Vigneulles and the Art of Prose Translation.
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A valuable resource for those interested in the French chansons de geste.-- CHOICE

[A] useful and commendable introductory study.-- Mediaevistik

Achieve[s] a comfortable balance between providing materials useful to those reading the most commonly-taught texts and gently nudging medievalists away from old favourites. . . .A highly useful introduction to one of the most important medieval genres. The Medieval Review

Produce[s] an excellent introduction to the tradition of the Old French chansons de geste. . .[with] its impeccable scholarship and accessible well organized writing style.-- Comitatus

Jones’s Manual . . . steers us through a tangled epic topography without ever meandering off course. This Sharp, elegantly written overview of the chansons de geste presents them as still readable and teachable tales, even when what they celebrate irks modern sensibilities.-- Speculum

This concise volume . . . illuminates the concerns, textual forms, conventions, and historicity of a genre which has often been obscure to undergraduates and non-specialists.-- Modern Language Review

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