Strange Words offers separate but interrelated close readings of four medieval Roland texts in French and Occitan, paying particular attention to scenes in which the speeches of various characters perform or mirror narrative functions. In this clearly written and accessible book, Margaret Jewett Burland focuses on discourse and narrative within the fictional universe to argue persuasively that medieval authors and audiences understood the battle of Roncevaux and its aftermath as an appropriate story in which to incorporate implicit commentaries about contemporary issues. It allows readers to interpret the well-known Oxford version, The Song of Roland, within the expanded context of its larger medieval textual tradition.
These original essays mean to provoke rather than reassure, to challenge rather than codify. Instead of summarizing existing knowledge after the fashion of the now-ubiquitous literary 'companions,' these essays aim at opening fresh discussion; instead of emphasizing settled consensus theydirect their readers to areas of enlivened and unresolved debate. Although 'major authors' such as Chaucer and Langland are richly represented, many little-known and neglected texts are considered as well. Analysis is devoted not only to self-sufficient works, but to the general conditions oftextual production and reception.
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