Constantinople and the West in Medieval French Literature

Constantinople and the West in Medieval French Literature

Renewal and Utopia

Rima Devereaux





An indepth examination of the presentation of Constantinople and its complex relationship with the west in medieval French texts.
Medieval France saw Constantinople as something of a quintessential ideal city. Aspects of Byzantine life were imitated in and assimilated to the West in a movement of political and cultural renewal, but the Byzantine capital was also celebrated as the locus of a categorical and inimitable difference.
This book analyses the debate between renewal and utopia in Western attitudes to Constantinople as it evolved through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in a series of vernacular (Old French, Occitan and Franco-Italian) texts, including the Pèlerinage de Charlemagne, Girart de Roussillon, Partonopeus de Blois, the poetry of Rutebeuf, and the chronicles by Geoffroy de Villehardouin and Robert de Clari, both known as the Conquête de Constantinople. It establishes how the texts' representation of the West's relationship with Constantinople enacts this debate between renewal and utopia; demonstrates that analysis of this relationship can contribute to a discussion on the generic status of the texts themselves; and shows that the texts both react to the socio-cultural context in which they were produced, and fulfil a role within that context.

Dr Rima Devereaux is an independent scholar based in London.


April 2012
5 black and white, 1 line illustrations
248 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843843023
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
BISAC LIT011000, LIT004150
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Table of Contents

Making Sense of History: East-West Relations and the Idea of the City in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
Renewal and Utopia: Two Paradigms for Understanding East-West Relations in Medieval French Texts
Aemulatio: The Limitations of East-West Alliance
Admiratio: Utopia as Social Critique
Translatio Embodied? Renewal, Truth and the Status of Constantinople in Thirteenth-Century Didactic Texts
Renovatio as Commemoration: Civic Loyalty and the Latin Empire of Constantinople as Venetian Historiography
Appendix 1: Original Latin Quotations
Appendix 2: References to Constantinople in Other Epics and Romances
Appendix 3: Outline of Events in the History of East-West Relations from the Second Crusade to the Palaeologan Reconquest


Rima Devereaux's study is simultaneously broad yet detailed, drawing together people, places, and peregrinations to explore the literary representation of the Byzantine capital in ten Old French and Franco-Italian works of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. (A) thought-provoking and accessible study of Eastern and Western 'sites of power' (...), in which Constantinople is seen to be a function or process as much as a physical space. FRENCH STUDIES

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