National Epic Denied: European Assertions of the Lack of a Spanish Epic

Nadia R. Altschul

in Geographies of Philological Knowledge

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780226016214
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226016191 | DOI:
National Epic Denied: European Assertions of the Lack of a Spanish Epic

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This chapter examines in particular Spain's marginal location within European scholarship by discussing the positions of Ferdinand Wolf and Gaston Paris, the two major nineteenth-century scholars who denied Spain's spiritual ability to produce an epic poem comparable to the French and German national exemplars. The Middle Ages was able to provide a site for cultural nationalism and a distinctive individual identity to a European metropolis. This culturalist turn to “one's own” national identity vis-à-vis a pan-European identity was associated at the time with an intra-European counter imperialist framework. Primary epics were understood as narrative verse songs that arose directly from the collective Volk; secondary epics—such as the Aeneid or the lettered poems of the early modern period and beyond—were considered as providing the worldviews of individual artistic poets. The French epic had not only been transported to most of Europe but had been differently adopted by Germanic and Romanic people. In the fifteenth century there was a resurgence of interest in the romances, which started to be recollected and assembled, and served as inspiration for new compositions.

Keywords: Middle Ages; cultural nationalism; European metropolis; artistic poets; French epic

Chapter.  10382 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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