The OF Blog: Thinking about starting a new reading/research project

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thinking about starting a new reading/research project

Every now and then the "bug" strikes me. It began when I was given a hardcover copy of Bulfinch's Mythology as a child. Much as I loved the classical Greek and Roman myths, great as my love for Arthurian romance has been over the years, I always have found the Carolingian Paladin stories (also known as "The Matter of France") to be the most fascinating. In particular, I have always wanted to read more about Roland/Orlando, the tragic hero of the chanson d' geste called The Song of Roland, as well as the star of at least three major Italian Renaissance epics, Morgante (composed by Luigi Pulci), Orlando Innamorato (Matteo Maria Boiardo), and Orlando Furioso (Ludovico Ariosto).

After years of haphazard research, I have begun to delve further into the Orlando/Roland mythos. I have ordered copies of Boiardo and Pulci's work (currently reading Pulci after finishing the Boiardo Thursday), plus I am awaiting the arrival of the English translation of Bertrand De Bar-Sur-Aube's 12th century related geste, The Song of Girart of Vienne, which deals with the rivalry and later the friendship between Roland and Olivier. I am contemplating spending a relatively large amount of money (over $100, when shipping is included) to import a copy of Spanish poet/playwright Lope de Vega's La hermosura de Angélica, which deals with Orlando's great love, the Cathay princess, Angelica.

But this time, I want to go further. The historian in me wants to explore the origins of the myth (Einhard's biography of Charlemagne contains a brief reference to the historical Roland, Count of the Breton Marches) and to see how Roland/Orlando and his world changes from the late 8th century CE/AD through the 11th-13th centuries chansons through the Italian Renaissance epics of the 15th and 16th centuries to more modern portrayals of the character in various parts of the world, particularly the romance language-speaking countries of Spain, France, and Italy. But this proposed project will be draining in both money, time, and energy. Hopefully, I can devote enough time to reading a book a month and writing my reflections upon what I have learned and how each work connected to others touching upon the subject of Roland. It might end up being a years-long project. However, I think it'll be worth it to me, as it's been too long since I've really delved into a cultural study, much less one that has intrigued me for over two decades now.

So there might be occasional rumblings from me in the coming months about certain books being acquired. I certainly can't think of beginning this in full until the summer time (when school will be out), and I first need to amass a list of resources. So...

Anyone reading this know of any other primary, contemporary sources (poems, chronicles, tracts, etc.) on Roland/Orlando besides the ones I've mentioned above? I'm looking for sources that either have been translated into English or are available in Spanish (I can muddle my way through Portuguese or Italian, though, so I might be able to consider those as well, although the import costs from those quarters is bound to be even more expensive for me) that I can use. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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