Song of Roland - on Absolutes and Relative Values

Author: Ailes, Marianne


“This challenging book sets out to introduce new readers to this most famous of Old French texts and to make a contribution to our understanding of its perennial appeal. It brings to the fore the ethical and religious dimensions of the text, underlining the continuity of a Christian tradition which guarantees the intelligibility of story told in the remote age of medieval feudality…. While the argument is clear enough for the beginner, it also progressively takes account of the very extensive scholarly literature which surrounds this text. Clear presentation and fully translated quotations from Old French add to the attractiveness and usefulness of this book.” – Roger Pensom

“… an effective contribution to understanding the poem because it concentrates on the characters of Roland, Ganelon, and Charlemagne seen in the context of their familial, feudal, and religious relationships…. The study includes a fascinating discussion of the concept of human and divine justice as shown by the trial of Ganelon and Charlemagne’s victory over the Saracens. A close analysis of the terms amur and amistiez helps elucidate the complex social and political relationships in the poem. Careful references to other interpretations, a detailed bibliography, and a readable style make this book a very useful tool for lower- and upper-division undergraduates.” – CHOICE

“Dr. Ailes combines a brilliant scholarly mind with a gift for clarity…. There is a real need for a book such as Dr. Ailes’. Since the time of the Roland poet, moral assumptions and religious attitudes have changed to such an extent that the poem can be quite confusing for its present-day readership. Dr. Ailes breaks with the tradition of assuming that all readers of the medieval Epic are confirmed scholars steeped in Christian doctrine: her work will make a major masterpiece of world literature more accessible to the wide audience it deserves.” – Françoise Le Saux

“…a broad range of opinion is taken on board, discussed by Ailes, and figures in the bibliography. The absolutes referred to in the title are those of divine justice, set against the fallible pragmatism of human judgements, and ethics, both heroic and more generally social….a very solid discussion of key problems of the Roland, and chansons de geste in general.” – Medium Aevum

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Preface; Introduction
1. The Ethical Framework
2. Ethics in Practice: Heroes, Traitor; Enemy; Good versus Evil
3. The Tragedy of Waste: Inevitability; Tragic Structure of the Text; Christian Tragedy?; Tragic Scale
4. The Justice of God: Ganelon; The Saracens; Ultimate Victory
5. Love: Friendship; Feudal Bond and Political Relationships; God; Family; Roland and Aude
6. Conclusion
Appendix of terms relating to love in the Roland; Bibliography; Indices