The Oxford <i>Roland</i> as an Ahistorical Document: ATale of Ghosts or a Ghost of a Tale?


  • Bernadette A. Masters


The 'Oxford Roland' is the name given to Digby MS 23 in the Bodleian Library.' It is an Anglo-Norman text, in 298 assonanced laisses or stanzas of irregular length. Each verse comprises a pair of hemistiches or rhythmic cursus, the flrst two-stressed, the second three-stressed, the syllable count of which is again irregular. Other later redactions of the Roland tradition have survived, in Anglo-Norman, Old French, and various other languages. We shall return to these later, but for the moment we shall concentrate on the earliest extant version. 

 an article published in 1990, Gabrielle M. Spiegel states that it is now almost a commonplace for historians to recognise the impossibility of retrieving historical 'facts' from Mediaeval literary texts. 2 The emphasis for the historian as for the literary specialist, she argues, needs to shift towards a more anthropological position, whereby an evaluation may be made of the role of textual objects within a broader socio-cultural framework.3 The present paper responds to this perceived need.