Romance Epic is the best known genre of Franco-Italian literature, largely because many examples from this genre were preserved in a collection of texts now at the Biblioteca Nazionale San Marco in Venice, along with other examples preserved in various institutions. French versions of these epic romance stories often formed the basis for Franco-Italian versions of the same material, but original works were created in Franco-Italian as well. Three different kinds of romance epic were copied and created in Italy; these referred to the three distinct matières, or subjects, about which authors wrote, including:
1. The “Matière de France,” with members from the court of Carolingian France as central characters;
2. The “Matière de Bretagne,” centered around the characters of Arthur and his knights of the Round Table;
3. The “Matière de Rome (or Matière Antiqua),” which interpreted and reinterpreted historical and mythological sources related to the stories of Greece and Rome.
These three matières were first described in writing by Jean Bodel, the late twelfth- to early thirteenth-century author of the Song of the Saxons.
Not all Romance Epics that circulated in Italy were in Franco-Italian. Many copies of the French versions also circulated, relatively unchanged, throughout Italy during this time.
Original Franco-Italian works outside the traditional matières:
As is common with later Romance epic, some Franco-Italian works combine the three strands of Romance Epic into one text, and therefore defy categorization into one of the three matières above. Among these texts are:
The Huon d'Auvergne;
the Roman de Belris;
the Guerra d'Attila; and
the Attila en Prose.
These examples demonstrate the popularity of the romance genre, which led to the development of Italian language texts treating the same subject matter and given the term “Chilvalric Humanism” by scholars of early Italian literature. Some of the same material was also rendered in Latin, with the Franco-Italian version as the original source.
Bisson, Sebastiano. Il Fondo Francese della Biblioteca Marciana di Venezia. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2008.
Delcorno Branca, D. Il romanzo cavalleresco medievale. Florence: Sansoni, 1974.
Cardini, Franco. “La letteratura cavalleresco.”Quaderni Medievali 37 (1994): 84-91.
Holtus, Günter, Rita Lejeune, Peter Wunderli, Jean Frappier, and Hans Robert Jauss. Les épopées romanes. Tome 1/2 Fascicule 10 GRLMA Franco-italien et épopée franco-italienne C. Heidleburg: C. Winter Universitätsverlag, 2005.
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