The French of England — a term meant to cover both Anglo-Norman and Anglo-French, and which could almost more properly be “the Frenches of England” — is a major field for fresh exploration. This website gives information about material on the French documents and texts of England: on translations of previously untranslated and unpublished work, and on current research. Nearly one thousand literary texts are listed in the most important survey of Anglo-Norman literature to date,Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts, ANTS OPS 3 (London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1997) by Ruth J. Dean and Maureen B. M. Boulton. The total documentary corpus composed in the French of England is unquantified and probably unquantifiable, but it is large and significant, and the subject of much important recent work both by historians and by linguists (especially as there has been fresh scholarship in recent years on the nature and uses of the fourteenth- and early fifteenth- century French of England). This site includes a bibliographic guide to the French records of medieval England.
The French of England is a field that welcomes and benefits today’s newer approaches in, for example, post-colonial and feminist and post-disciplinary studies, which seek to cross, re-align, and rethink disciplinary boundaries. Scholars are asking new questions about the ways in which “French” texts are “English” and about the interrelations between insular French literature, that of the continent, and the literatures of other medieval cultures. Historians and literary scholars taking a post-colonial approach recognize that the French of England was at various times the language of a political and military elite, while scholarship on medieval women continues to demonstrate the importance of vernacular records and texts, not only in the history of women in England, but for medieval scholarship at large. In the field of insular vernacular pastoralia and devotional texts, where clerics as well as religious and laywomen play significant roles, for instance, it has been estimated that French of England texts number approximately 500 as against Middle English’s 800: a significant corpus, without which accounts of vernacular literary production in England are seriously incomplete.
England is the location of the earliest historical writing in French and has an important continuing tradition of such writing from the early twelfth into the fourteenth century and beyond. Saints’ lives, now widely recognized as one of the major European narrative genres, and an indispensable resource for knowledge of medieval culture, have a rich corpus in the French of England. So too, numerous religious works in the French of England showcase the conspicuous religiosity of aristocratic laypeople’s formation — often their spiritual cultural capital — in medieval Britain.
The French of England Project (FoE) is based at Fordham University in New York City and has also been located in and supported by the University of York, UK. It has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities in the USA and from the Modern Humanities Research Association in the UK.