Thursday, December 24, 2015

Announcing the Song of Roland Read-Along!

Regular Vintage Novels readers will be aware of my Annual Epic tradition. I love epic poems, but I've found that they slip down more easily if you devour them in the shortest possible time. In previous years, I've taken a holiday right after Christmas to chew through such immense tales as the Orlando Furioso, Jerusalem Delivered, The Faerie Queene, and most recently The Kalevala. This has been huge fun to do on my own...but of course what I've always secretly wished for was to make it a party, potentially with in-jokes and fangirling.

That's why, this year, I've decided to make my Annual Epic a read-along! This year I want to get through a fairly short and easy epic, the seminal chanson de geste The Song of Roland.

The Song of Roland is a very influential text of the medieval imagination and the concept of chivalry. Charlemagne is considered by many the first king of the medieval age. His knights were considered the first knights of the feudal system. And the conflict depicted in The Song of Roland between Christian Franks and Muslim Saracens was in many ways the defining conflict of medievalism, a conflict that had begun before Charlemagne's time (his grandfather, Charles Martel, was the victor of the Battle of Tours in 732, when the Muslim invasion of Europe was finally turned back) and at the time the poem was written between 1040 and 1115, was entering a new stage in the Crusades. 

Like many epics, it's one I've already read, but this year as I chew through OUTREMER, I want a refresher course on chivalry as it was seen in the 1000s. And you're all invited to join in!

I plan to keep this pretty low-key, because January is my downtime and I know that like me, you probably don't want to be stressing out over deadlines this time of year. So:

Join the Party!

1. Get your hands on a translation of The Song of Roland. Everyone agrees the Dorothy Sayers version (available on Open Library) is best, but if you can't lay your hands on one of these quickly, John O'Hagan's is online at the Internet History Sourcebook, and CK Moncrieff's at Project Gutenberg.

2. (Optional) If you have the opportunity, listen to George Grant's lecture (available through the King's Meadow Study Centre) "The Chivalric Code: Quest for Honor and Virtue", which explains the background and impact of the poem on the medieval concept of chivalry.

3. Beginning Christmas Day or thereabouts, begin reading through The Song of Roland. You have all of January to do this, though I anticipate being able to knock it out in about a week.

4. Use the hashtag #readroland to tag your thoughts, reactions, enthusing, or to share articles/commentary on social media. 

5. When you're done, blog your thoughts and add the link to the linkup below by February 1st to go into a drawing to win a celebratory mp3 track of Alfred's War Song by Kemper Crabb!

EDIT: Congratulations to Emily of The Hero Singer for winning the mp3 of Alfred's War Song! If you didn't manage to add your thoughts to the linkup in time for the drawing, feel free to do so at your leisure; I'd still love to see them!

3 comments:

D. Loon said...

Oooo, I want to do this! I read _Orlando Furioso_ years ago and I'd like to go back to the source. My local library only has an excerpt translated by Glyn Burgess. I might go with Gutenberg for this, unless it's in my Norton Anthology - I'll have to go look when I get home.

With my work being what it is, I really don't know if I'll be able to fully take part, but I want to try.

Suzannah said...

Awesome! Welcome along; I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts, if you get around to it.

D. Loon said...

It is in my Norton - excerpts anyway. And I've got the other translation from Gutenberg, so away we go! Thanks!

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