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"Intelligent, insightful, and superbly researched. Jones has succeeded especially well in presenting so many texts and recounting their stories with clarity, brevity, and a light hand."--William Calin, author of "The French Tradition and Literature of Medieval England" "An essential introduction to the Old French chanson de geste tradition, from basic texts to critical considerations of the genre including later versions in Europe and some lesser-known texts. Provides background for aspiring medievalists in many fields and engages readers with its lively presentations of critical discussions."--Leslie Zarker Morgan, coeditor of "Approaches to Teaching the "Song of Roland"" "An indispensable research tool for students and scholars of Old French literature. Its nuanced readings, informed by Jones's admirable command of both previous and current scholarship, not only set the major French epics in a rich literary, social, and historical context but also reveal the continuing relevance of the ethical issues raised by these medieval poems. This book will make the teaching of "La Chanson de Roland" (and other French epic texts) a less daunting task for those of us who are not specialists. A welcome addition to my library!"--Elizabeth W. Poe, author of "Compilatio" Loosely based on French history but often embellished in fantastical ways and written to be performed by minstrels and jongleurs, ""chansons de geste are one of the most important traditions of the French Middle Ages.With an overview of the principal epic cycles, their literary and historical analogues, close readings, contemporary versions and allusions, notes on dates and versification, and a glossary of key terms, Catherine Jones makes these poems accessible to students and any reader interested in learning more about this lively genre. She presents an essential survey of traditional scholarship, such as debates about sources and elements of style, and raises intriguing contemporary questions related to alterity, gender, and genre. With its many critical layers, this book is ideal for undergraduates and teachers alike.