The last few years have seen a flourishing of academic activity on the medieval historiographical tradition of the First Crusade. New editions and accompanying studies of many of the key Latin texts have emerged, with more to appear in the near future. In spite of this, the relationship between the various accounts of the First Crusade in the two centuries after the expedition, in Latin and French, confounds easy comprehension. The crusade texts fail to exhibit any simple hierarchical relationship of copying material. The variance of these texts is, in fact, much better suited to a more fluid model of understanding textual transmission, and the question of whether it might not be profitable to view the corpus of material in the crusade texts in light of Zumthor's mouvance is increasingly being raised.
Moving away from considering texts as discrete, archetypal artefacts, and instead viewing them as manifestations of a wider underlying tradition, has the side effect of rendering null the earlier dismissal of texts as ‘derivative’. Nineteenth-century textual categorization, with a formal approach to compositional hierarchies, saw some texts as reworked versions of others, and therefore less unique, or valuable: for example, the previous titling of the Gesta Francorum ‘Tudebodus abbreviatus’. Famously, the Chanson d'Antioche, recently translated and comprehensively studied by Edgington and Sweetenham, contains no ‘historical’ information which could not already be established from the Latin texts. It does not follow, however, that this text, and others like it, have nothing to contribute to knowledge of the textual memorialization, historiography, and wider social conception of the First Crusade. This is especially pertinent since it is now near-unanimously agreed that a reservoir of popular, possibly oral, material predated the Antioche, and was utilized in other vernacular and Latin texts.
The text which is the subject of this chapter, the unedited-in-full Siege d'Antioche, is one which has been, since its discovery in the mid-nineteenth-century, largely neglected in terms of its potential to add useful historical information to our understanding of the First Crusade. However, this lengthy work is testament to the developing social narrative of that crusade, as the cultural habit of crusading itself underwent revision and revivification in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.