Franco-Italian Romance Epic in Northern Italy

Romance Epic is the best known genre of Franco-Italian literature, largely because many examples from this genre are preserved in a collection of texts now at the Biblioteca Nazionale San Marco in Venice, along with other examples preserved in various institutions. One should note that not all literature that circulated in Italy was in Franco-Italian, but rather in French, especially in the earlier periods. The French recensions of these romance epics often formed the basis for Franco-Italian versions of the same material, but original works were created in Franco-Italian as well. The types of romance epic that were copied and created in Italy easily divide into the three distinct matières, or subjects, about which authors wrote, outlined by Jean Bodel in his twelfth-century Chanson de Saisnes:

1. The “Matière de France,” with members from the court of Carolingian France as central characters;
2. The “Matière de Bretagne,” centered on 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.

As is common with later Romance epic, some Franco-Italian works combine these traditions into one text, and therefore defy categorization into one of the three matières above. Among these texts are:

The popularity of the romance genre in Italy led to the development of Italian language texts treating the same subject matter, 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.

General Bibliography

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.