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Creole Medievalism

Colonial France and Joseph Bédier’s Middle Ages

2010
Author:

Michelle R. Warren

Creole Medievalism

How a scholar’s multilingual, multiracial background created a French medieval ideal

Probing the work of the once famous but little understood cultural figure Joseph Bédier, Creole Medievalism illustrates how postcolonial France and Réunion continue to grapple with histories too varied to meet expectations of national unity. Michelle R. Warren demonstrates that Bédier’s relationship to this multicultural and economically peripheral colony motivates his nationalism in complex ways.

Creole Medievalism is a first-rate and fascinating book. Energetically and elegantly, Michelle Warren devotes her original voice and expertise to what emerges, from this scintillating study, as a transhistorical take on the literary and sociocultural historiography of that much-sought but mostly ill-defined francophonie.

Jody Enders, author of Death by Drama and Other Medieval Urban Legends

Joseph Bédier (1864–1938) was one of the most famous scholars of his day. He held prestigious posts and lectured throughout Europe and the United States, an activity unusual for an academic of his time. A scholar of the French Middle Ages, he translated Tristan and Isolde as well as France’s national epic, The Song of Roland. Bédier was publicly committed to French hegemony, yet he hailed from a culture that belied this ideal—the island of Réunion in the southern Indian Ocean.

In Creole Medievalism, Michelle R. Warren demonstrates that Bédier’s relationship to this multicultural and economically peripheral colony motivates his nationalism in complex ways. Simultaneously proud of his French heritage and nostalgic for the island, Bédier defends French sovereignty based on an ambivalent resistance to his creole culture. Warren shows that in the early twentieth century, influential intellectuals from Réunion helped define the new genre of the ‘colonial novel,’ adopting a pro-colonial spirit that shaped both medieval and Francophone studies.

Probing the work of a once famous but little understood cultural figure, Creole Medievalism illustrates how postcolonial France and Réunion continue to grapple with histories too varied to meet expectations of national unity.

Creole Medievalism

Michelle R. Warren is professor of comparative literature at Dartmouth College and the author of History on the Edge: Excalibur and the Borders of Britain, 1100–1300 (Minnesota, 2000).

Creole Medievalism

Creole Medievalism is a first-rate and fascinating book. Energetically and elegantly, Michelle Warren devotes her original voice and expertise to what emerges, from this scintillating study, as a transhistorical take on the literary and sociocultural historiography of that much-sought but mostly ill-defined francophonie.

Jody Enders, author of Death by Drama and Other Medieval Urban Legends

An outstanding contribution to medievalism studies and an impressive model for further forays into the role our precursor medievalists played in developing the paradigms we still grapple with. It is also a clin d'oeil to all of us to make sure we develop a critical self-awareness of our own place(s) in the academy and the ongoing history of our fields.

The Medieval Review

Creole Medievalism is a welcome contribution to studies of French colonial culture, and a much-needed intervention in metropolitan intellectual history.

H-France Review

Warren’s research is exhaustive, the connections she traces are rich and suggestive, and her photographic illustrations give real density to the portrayal of place and character. Warren has written an original, informative, and provocative book that offers fascinating insights into réunionnais culture.

French Review

Creole Medievalism

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Joseph Bédier and the Imperial Nation

1. Roncevaux and Réunion
2. Medieval and Colonial Attractions
3. Between Paris and Saint-Denis
4. Island Philology
5. A Creole Epic
6. Postcolonial Itineraries

Afterword: Medieval Debris
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Creole Medievalism

UMP blog: Reunion Island's UNESCO designation puts spotlight on its medieval and colonial legacies—including its relationship with famous scholar Joseph Bédier.

1/13/2011
Joseph Bédier (1864–1938) was one of the most famous scholars of his day. He held prestigious posts and lectured throughout Europe and the United States, an activity unusual for an academic of his time. A scholar of the French Middle Ages, he translated
Tristan and Isolde as well as France’s national epic, The Song of Roland. Bédier was publicly committed to French hegemony, yet he hailed from a culture that belied this ideal—the island of Reunion in the southern Indian Ocean. Here, Michelle Warren discusses how France's medieval and colonial legacies have converged since the nineteenth century.