The “matter of Britain” in the French Medieval Lays
Fimmtudaginn 7. mars 2019 kl. 16.30
There is no clear-cut definition of the notion commonly used among medievalists of the “matière de Bretagne”. This lack of a definition raises several questions: is the “matière de Bretagne” limited to the Arthurian and Tristanian literatures or does it comprise other topics? What does “Bretagne” stand for? Does it suggest that Celtic legends lie behind?
The 12th-century Anglo-Norman lays are an excellent starting point to question this notion. Not only have the Lays, from the time of Marie de France onwards, been described as representative of the “matière de Bretagne”, but they have also been used, more than any other 12th-century Anglo-Norman verse-narrative, to sustain theories of Breton-Celtic origins.
In this talk, I shall try to summarize some of the major issues that the “Breton” lays have raised, from the Middle Ages until modern scholarship.
Hélène Tétrel is an associate professor (“maître de conférences habilitée à diriger les recherches”) at the University of Western Britanny, Brest, France, and a member of the Research Centre for Breton and Celtic Studies (CRBC). Her research interests include French and Icelandic medieval literature and more specifically translations from Old French to Old Icelandic. She is currently preparing an edition of the Old Icelandic translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britannie in collaboration with Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir.
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