Justin E. H. Smith in The American Reader:

ScreenHunter_444 Dec. 05 16.34What is Europe? Where are its cracks? The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben recently argued that a ‘Latin Union’ should be carved out of the crumbling EU, on the basis of shared linguistic and cultural heritage.[1] Agamben would like to include France in this breakaway federation, yet there is in fact some ancient and medieval basis for the belief that French identity, unlike Italian, is not simply descended from the Romans, but indeed is forged out of a significant encounter with the Germanic and Celtic worlds.

For one thing, the very ethnonym, français, denotes in the first instance Frankish people, speakers of the Germanic Old Franconian language, who also left their name to a certain fort that would grow into a city later distinguished as the birthplace of Goethe and the home of the German stock exchange. Students in traditional programs of Romance philology were required to master the non-Romance languages of influential neighbors; those specializing in Spanish also took Arabic, while those focused on France had to prove mastery of German. But here in fact the neighboring relation does not do justice to the nature of the influence in question. The two cultural spheres are co-generated, and share much of the same stock of treasures. Before there was Tristan und Isolde there was Tristan et Yseult. La Fontaine and the Brothers Grimm tell many of the same tales, gathered from the French and German countrysides like mushrooms. The German word for ‘France’, Frankreich, hits us like Thor’s hammer, even as it accurately describes the thing in question. France is the Reich of the Franks.

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