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19.04.07 Boscolo, L'Entrée d'Espagne

19.04.07 Boscolo, L'Entrée d'Espagne

The phenomenon of Franco-Italian has enjoyed increasing interest in recent years. A thirteenth through fifteenth-century mixed-language literary phenomenon from the northern Italian peninsula, it appears particularly in chansons de geste, an epic form deriving from Old French tradition. The Entrée d'Espagne (henceforth abbreviated Entrée) is one of the first edited Franco-Italian poems and the most sophisticated of the genre. [1]

Editions of Franco-Italian texts, completed by political commentary and linguistic analysis dominate the literary critical scene. [2] The Entrée extends to two volumes in 15805 lines of rhymed or assonanced varying-length stanzas called laisses. A large gap in the middle is estimated to cover 5000-6000 lines; that gap divides the poem into two parts. The Entrée d'Espagne is arguably the most visible Franco-Italian poem on the international stage. Its title derives from the Latin in various inventories of the fourteenth century ("Liber Introitus Yspanie" and similar forms); the original is not labelled. This would be translated as something like the Entrance into Spain or the Beginning of Spain. It describes the "seven full years" before the battle of Roncevaux as described in the Song of Roland, and consists of largely fictional battles against "Saracens" in the Iberian peninsula. One major literary critical volume in English, Nancy Bradley-Cromey's 1993 Authority and Autonomy in "L'Entrée d'Espagne," initially exposed the phenomenon to the English-speaking academic world.

Claudia Boscolo's volume, published in 2017, is based upon the author's 2005 dissertation. It has circulated informally in proofs among scholars; I personally have an electronic copy almost identical to the final one with a 2013 publication date. Boscolo's volume picks up where Bradley-Cromey left off. It renews the main issues surrounding the Entrée, offering an analysis from an Italian point of view but open to English-language criticism, contextualizing the Entrée in an introduction followed by five chapters: 1. Genre; 2. Literary Influences; 3. The Main Characters; 4. Representations of Islam; 5. Historical Context and Textual Matters, and concludes with a Bibliography and Index of Names.

The Entrée's genre is problematic since definitions of "epic" and "romance" vary by tradition and national studies. Boscolo thus logically begins in chapter 1 by clarifying what "romance epic" means in the Italian tradition, particularly in relation to the French. By positing "hybrid" as a positive term, in opposition to degeneration, she sets the point of departure for her study: the romance protagonist is a seeker and a developing character versus the fixed epic hero of both chanson de geste and classical epic tradition. He is placed in the socio-economic world of late medieval-early Renaissance Italy, in the light of Dantean and other epic and romance models. This study thus also provides a specific example of the work of Boscolo's advisor, Dr. Jane Everson, who published The Italian Romance Epic in the Age of Humanism (2001), examining the interplay of classical and medieval traditions leading to Ariosto's Orlando furioso. The Entrée offers a case study of the hybridization of form and language joining those traditions.

Boscolo's analysis revolves around the binary division of the text: she defines the first part as epic and the second as romance. In her second chapter, she examines specific elements of Breton romance, then elements of classical epic in narrative structures. She finally offers specific references to known works in the form of citations and repeated names. Various Arthurian romances as well as the matter of Aeneas, Troy and Alexander contribute to the protagonist's character. Boscolo builds upon earlier critics' analyses with solid, precise textual readings, demonstrating how Roland embodies elements of those major epic heroes, yet also participates in individual adventure (typical of romance) as do knights in the Quest for the Grail, Febus el forte, Galahad and the Knights of the Round Table. Classical characters and references do not spring unadulterated from classical sources, but frequently derive from Old French or other vernacular versions of classical tales such as the Roman de Troie and the Alexander Romance, as she demonstrates. She thus further exemplifies the Entrée's hybridity leading to the better-known Italian Renaissance masterpieces.

In her third chapter, Boscolo further develops her argument that the Entrée is indeed of a hybrid genre, one uniting epic and romance, ancestor of the Italian ottava rima, by examining the major characters, specifically Roland and Charlemagne. Boscolo applies theory with a light touch, citing Tomaševskij for her approach to character analysis. She suggests that Roland conquers individuality, overcoming Charlemagne's authority with the help of secondary characters. [3] She sets her argument concerning the Entrée in contrast to the Oxford version of the Song of Roland, where Roland is subservient to the king. Underlying the entire discussion is the question of Roland's orgueil [pride] and whether or not he and Charlemagne are démesuré--exceeding reasonable measure--in their behavior. It's interesting that she limits herself to the Oxford Roland, since the three Rolands produced in Italy differ in their presentation of certain aspects of Roland and his nemesis, Ganelon, though the Oxford manuscript is the earliest example of the text. [4]

Boscolo's fourth chapter is quite topical. It examines the representations of Islam through characters presented as "Saracen," Christians disguised as Saracens and interactions of Christians with Saracens. In addition to chanson de geste and Arthurian material, Boscolo here links clerical training in the form of Franciscan and Dominican tradition to the text. After recounting Francis of Assisi's 1219 journey to Syria and Egypt, she contextualizes the plot with historical and literary-critical points as presented by Tolan and Limentani. [5] Marco Polo too appears; only Alexander the Great's trip to the east is omitted here. (This appears briefly later in Chapter 5, p. 218, where she notes that the topic has already been well-treated.) Boscolo then examines how various Entrée characters play out these theoretical positions: the "good Saracens," rather stereotypical; then the "bad" Saracens, Ferragu in part one and Malquidant in part two. Her careful and very approachable analyses reveal the importance of moral failure in the form of démesure to determine a character's role, regardless of his religious affiliation. Thus Roland's chivalrous behavior and esteem for chivalry in others lead to conversions to Christianity and recall the Grail Quest in its Christian chivalry. Boscolo's inclusion of Franciscan philosophy is an important contribution to the discussion of the Entrée's second part.

The discussions of démesure, Franciscan philosophy and northern Italian history lead to Boscolo's final chapter, wherein she examines questions about the Entrée that remain open. She bases her analyses on two passages in particular, linking them with historical references in the text and context. These are, first: the prologue to part two of the poem, where the author identifies his birthplace, and second, Ferragu's speech about his birth, continuing the previous chapter's treatment of him: so two "origin" speeches explain the genesis of the text. The prologue to part two, the romance portion, demonstrates, according to Boscolo, that the writer is far from his land, not in Padua, since he must describe it to the lord for whom he writes. In a precise linguistic and philological analysis of Ferragu's autobiography (including Arabic etymology), Boscolo proposes links to the Carrerese Cavalcabò family, suggesting that the author of the Entrée's sympathizes with smaller lords facing the overwhelming Milanese Visconti. The author would thus need to remain anonymous, offering a lesson to the Visconti about the possibility of underlings rebelling, even when the ruler is as benignly inclined to them as Charlemagne is to Roland.

Boscolo concludes with the sore question of whether or not the poem is completed. The addition to the final lines of the only almost-complete manuscript of the initial lines of a sequel, not to mention the absence of plot episodes announced at the beginning that never occur (e.g., the taking of Compostella) have long fed the idea of the poem's being incomplete. Boscolo, however, looking at the plot, the motifs used and overall plot development, argues that the poet stopped where his innovation had to stop: the Song of Roland, featuring Roland's death at Roncevaux, was inevitable. The author therefore could do no more: Roland progressed out from epic, back through romance and remains at the start of his final battles at the end of the Entrée.

This is an inquiry elegantly organized in its metatextual structure, using origin texts to examine authorial origins, the manuscript conclusion to discuss finality; furthermore, it develops numerous long-standing critical questions. The substance of the argument is marred by a few issues: first, no chapters are numbered except the last (p. 215, "5."), and there are misprints (e.g., roì, p. 137, and Jusq'à César p. 259). Then there are a few terminological issues ("raises a cause" p. 184, which seems to be an Italianism directly translated; "rectified" for "defends" p. 163; the explanation of Franco-Venetian in contrast to Franco-Italian is given only after both terms have appeared, pp. 4-5; "Cato" probably should be explained as the Disticha Catonis the first time the work is referred to, as it is not necessarily common knowledge). The argument about portraiture could have profited from Alice Colby-Hall's volume on the portrait in romance in Chapter 3.

Boscolo's argument is carefully made, and no doubt will contribute to further research about the "beautiful Saracen" as found in Lynn Ramey and numerous articles on the topic. [6] Those working on the edges of the Francophone world will want to examine the relationship of "Saracen" and "pagan" here in contrast to that of Anglo-Norman discourse, which would place the importance of the Entrée on the stage of international medieval globalism. [7] It is a pity that it took so long for the volume to come to print and join medieval Francophone studies.

Boscolo's volume proposes anew a lengthy and problematic text to the international critical audience. The difficulty of Franco-Italian and the formidable length of the poem, like that of many romance epics, tend to keep it from narrative and conceptual analysis outside of a small group of critics. It is time that the Entrée, like Franco-Italian literature in general, move beyond exclusively linguistic concerns and take its place in the vernacular multilingual medieval world. This volume offers a starting point into that complex environment.



1. Antoine Thomas (ed.), Entrée d'Espagne, chanson de geste franco-italienne, publiée d'après le manuscrit unique de Venise, 2 vols. (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1913).;

2. Peter Wünderli (ed.) 1982, 2007; Raffaele da Verona. Aquilon de Bavière,roman franco italien en prose (1379-1407), 3 vols. (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2007); Aldo Rosellini (ed.), La 'Geste Francor'di Venezia. Edizione integrale del Codice XIII del Fondo francese della Marciana (Brescia: La Scuola, 1986); Günter Holtus (ed.), La Versione franco-italiana della "Bataille d'Aliscans: Codex Marcianus fr. VIII (=252) (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1985); Henning Krauss, Epica feudale e pubblico borghese: Per la storia poetica di Carlomagno in Italia, trans. Andrea Fassò (Padova: Liviana, 1980); Günter Holtus, Lexicalische Untersuchungen zur Interferenz: Die franko-italienische Entrée d'Espagne (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1979).

3.The approach parallels that of Suard, who suggests that "La rigidité et la relative pauvreté du type est ... corrigée par la lecture que les personnages épiques proposent les uns des autres." François Suard, Roland ou les avatars d'une folie héroïque (Paris: Klincksieck, 2012), 325.

4. Joseph J. Duggan (general editor), La Chanson de Roland - The Song of Roland: The French Corpus. 3 vols. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006).

5. John Victor Tolan, Saint Francis and the Sultan: The Curious History of a Christian-Muslim Encounter (Oxford: University Press, 2009); Alberto Limentani, Alberto "L'Entrée d'Espagne" e i signori d'Italia, eds. Marco Infurna and Francesco Zambon (Padova: Antenore 1992).

6. Alice Colby[-Hall], The Portrait in Twelfth-Century French Literature: An Example of the Stylistic Originality of Chrétien de Troyes (Geneva: Droz, 1965); Lynn Tarte Ramey, Christian, Saracen and Genre in Medieval French Literature (New York: Routledge 2001).

7. Marianne Ailes, and Phillipa Hardman, "Crusading, Chivalry and the Saracen World in Insular Romance," in Christianity and Romance in Medieval England, eds. Rosalind Field, Phillipa Hardman, and Michelle Sweeney (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 2010), 45-65.