The French of England: Texts and Literacies in a Multilingual Culture

Taught by Dr. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Fall 2015

French of England helps prepare graduates in medieval disciplines deploy the newly important multilingual paradigms for the study of medieval English and related cultures.  It looks at the rich and still under-researched francophone corpus (c. 1000 literary texts and large bodies of documentary records) composed and/or circulating in medieval England and related regions from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. French was a major regional and transnational language in England, used in literature, governance, administration, culture, trade, and the professions. Taking francophone literary and documentary culture into account changes our paradigms for English medieval literary history and prompts new thought about the relations between literature, literacy, and language.  Aiming to move as rapidly as possible from the pains of language-learning to the pleasures of reading text, the course combines a weekly linguistic practicum with a literary seminar and runs from 4pm to 7.00 pm on Tuesdays.   Previous experience of Old French is not required; basic reading or speaking of modern French is useful; experience with other languages is also sometimes enough of a help. If in doubt about whether your language experiences will be helpful, please email

Book list

A. Language Text Books

  1. Grammar for linguistic practicum and translation [you are strongly advised to own a personal copy] Einhorn, E., Old French: A Concise Handbook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974 and repr.).  Exactly what the title says and with enough detail on AN to be a useful everyday working tool.   There are second-hand copies currently available on at good prices, but don’t delay!
  2. The Anglo-Norman Dictionary was made with a UK government research grant as a public good and is hence free on-line at Just google Anglo-Norman Dictionary, but the whole site is worth investigating.
  3. If you want a hardcopy portable dictionary (I don’t require you to have one), the best option is probably Alan Hindley, Frederick W. Langley and Brian J. Levy, The Old French–English Dictionary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). This is the most convenient portable hardcopy modern dictionary (a fat paperback).  It doesn’t give citations or etymological information, just meanings. Useful, but by no means always enough for research. (I use AND on-line, DMF on line and library copies of the big Old French dictionaries– Tobler-Lommatsch, Godefroy myself, together with the OED and MED: details in the Biblio/Resources list for the class, to be looked at our first meeting).

B. Primary Text Editions and Translations (in the order they’re needed from Seminar 2 on). NoteI’m aware that this is quite a long list: some of the items on it are very inexpensively available, especially second hand, some not.   How much you purchase for personal ownership and how much you use library copies or in some cases where photocopies are possible within copyright restrictions is a personal decision, partly dependent on where your interests lie: e.g. High Middle Ages or Late Middle Ages.  Every effort will be made to lend, have on reserve in Walsh etc so that no-one has to go to great expense for things they are not certain will be in their life-time library.

The Lais of Marie de France, trans. K. Busby and G. S. Burgess (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, orig. publ. 1986, 2nd edn 1999; Repr 2003), ISBN 9780140447590 and 0140447598. This has all lais in translation and the lais of Lanval, Laüstic and Chevrefoil in French.  The French texts of other lais are available in library copies of editions, mostly French-language ones: if you want an English language edition of all the French lais, the one to get is A. Ewart, Lais of Marie de France, rev. G. Burgess, Bristol Classical Press, 1995 (ISBN 10: 1853994162ISBN 13: 9781853994166).  Also currently available second hand around $7.00 on if you want it, but it isn’t required for the course.

The Voyage of St Brendan: Representative Versions of the Legend in English Translation,W.R. J. Barron and Glyn S. Burgess (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 2002), ISBN 0859896560 [only one text from this anthology will be used, the translation of the earliest vernacular versiO, the Anglo-Norman text of c. 1121, so you may wish to use library copies]. The text, should you wish to purchase it, is edited by Ian Short and Brian Merrilees, The Anglo-Norman Voyage of St Brendan (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1979), ISBN 0719007356 (pbk.), but a library copy will do for purposes of the course.

Virgin Lives and Holy Deaths: Two Exemplary Biographies for Anglo-Norman Women, J. Wogan-Browne and G. S. Burgess (London: Dent, Everyman, 1996), ISBN 0460875809: includes excerpts in French. Some copies available on JWB kees a couple of spares. (includes Life of St Catherine by Clemence of Barking and anon. life of St Lawrence with original text extracts).

The Fables of Marie de France, ed. and trans. Harriet Spiegel, Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching 32 (Toronto, 1994). ISBN 080207636X.  Original text and translation.  Marie de France is an author to have in one’s life-time library of course, but we will be looking at just a few of the Fables, and you could manage with a library copy if you have access to one.  But much better to be able freely to range and read in your own copy if possible.

Wace: A History of the British, ed. and tr. Judith Weiss (Exeter University Press, 2nd edition, 2002), ISBN 0859897346 (pbk.). Complete French text and English translation. Another book for the medievalist’s life-time library.  (the pricing computer has got this wrong and put stupid prices- $500 for a paperback: try ordering new from Amazon)

Des granz geanz (About the great giants) supplied free, pending its publication in The Albina Casebook, Lamont and Baswell (Broadview, forthcoming).

Roman de Horn tr J. Weiss in her The Birth of Romance (Dent, 1997: revised and re-issued as Judith Weiss, trans.  The Birth of Romance in England, FRETS 4, 2009). ISBN 9780866983921 (hbk.) 0866983929 (hbk.).  Earlier 2nd hand Dent edition acceptable.

Fouke Fitzwaryn  tr. G. S. Burgess in his Two Medieval Outlaws: Eustace the Monk and Fouke Fitzwaryn (Cambridge: Brewer, 1997: ppbk 2009), ISBN 9781843841876.

‘The Life of St Osyth of Chich’, ed. D.W. Russell and trans. Jane Zatta in Papers on Language and Literature 41 (2005), 339-441.  (multiple copies lent out by JWB for the semester)

Boeve de Hamtoun and Gui de Warewic: Two Anglo-Norman Romances, tr. Judith Weiss, FRETS 3 (Tempe AZ: ACMERS, 2008), ISBN 9780866983785.

Verse Saints Lives in the French of England, tr. D. W. Russell FRETS 5 (2006): fully annotated lives of Sts Faith, George, Giles and Mary Magdalene, plus extracts of original text.

Henry, Duke of Lancaster, The Book of Holy Medicines, tr. Catherine Batt, FRETS 8 (2015), the first ever full translation (plus extracts of original text) of this extraordinary work of 1354 by a lay nobleman: rather like being in on the first edition of Margery Kempe.  Henry of Grosmont is a soldier, statesman, and father-in-law of Chaucer’s Duchess Blanche in Book of the Duchess.

Other primary texts and translations will be supplied by email/photocopy in cases where commercially purchasable editions and translations are not available.

C. Recommended background reading (for purchase if you wish: also available in the library)

Clanchy,  M.T. From Memory to Written Record, 3rd edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 2013), ISBN 0631168575 (pbk).

Wogan-Browne, J. et al, ed. Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England, c. 1100-c.1500 (Rochester NY: York Medieval Press with Boydell Press, 2009), 9781903153277 (hbk.) 1903153271 (pbk.).

Preliminary Reading for Seminar 1, Tuesday 8th Sept. 2015

  1. I. Linguistic Practicum: please bring your copies of Einhorn, Old French: A Concise Handbook (Cambridge University Press paperback: see Book List).
  2. Seminar: Anglo-Norman/The French of England in a Multilingual Culture 

Preliminary Reading

  1. Michael Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England 1066-1307, 3rd edition (Oxford, Blackwell, 2013: on line in Walsh): Part II, The Literate Mentality, with an introduction ‘What Reading Meant’, and chapters on Languages of Record; Literate and Illiterate; Hearing and Seeing; Trusting Writing).  Your comments on what you find striking in Clanchy’s account will be very interesting to hear in the seminar discussion, so bring your notes on him.
  1. Baswell, Warren, or both: Although there had been earlier work on multilingualism (notably the ground-breaking collection edited by David Trotter, Multilingualism in later Medieval England, 2000), the interaction of language and literature reaches a new platform and an important bench mark for for literary scholars in a trio of chapters published in Middle English: Oxford Approaches to Twenty-First Century Literature Series, ed. Paul Strohm (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Robert M. Stein’s chapter, ‘Multilingualism’ gives a good short thought-provoking  account of how the nation-state paradigm affects the formation of literary canons and where we are now, while Christopher Baswell, ‘Multilingualism on the Page’, and  Michelle R. Warren, ‘Translation’, Ch 5 of the same volume, pp. 52-67 are invaluable for the rethinking of how we read manuscript pages and how we conceptualize literature and textuality in the period.  These chapters should be available on A-res if not this week, as soon as I can on return for 1st Sept.  Strohm’s Middle English volume is however available in hardcopy in the reserve at Walsh, and given the current absence of E-res, pdfs of the three articles are being sent to you by email.  You will find it helpful to read at least one, preferably both, of Baswell and Warren before the first seminar: ideally Stein then Baswell then Warren.
  1. Elizabeth M. Tyler,’From Old English to Old French’ in Wogan-Browne et al, ed. Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England, c. 1100-c. 1500 (2009), pp. 164-78.  Important essay offering new ways of conceiving literary-linguistic relations.

Will get this on to Ares ASAP.

Extended List of background and general reading across the C12th-late C14th and 15th.  

Note: Until just a few years ago, all I could specify on this list was Clanchy’s great book, From Memory to Written Record (see above) and Susan Crane’s excellent chapter “Anglo-Norman Cultures” in Wallace’s Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature.  The recent exponential growth of French of England and the integration of multilingual paradigms enables me now to suggest some useful background reading wherever your interests center in the long presence of francophone language and literature in England.

(i) Bruce R. O’Brien, Reversing Babel: Translation among the English during an Age of Conquests, c. 800-c. 1200 (Delaware: University of Newark Press, 2011).  Though a little light on French exempification, French is fully acknowledged, so a break-through book for this period.

(ii) Elizabeth Salter’s classic work, English and International: Studies in the Literature, Art and Patronage of Medieval England has been re-issued in paperback (ed. Derek Pearsall and Nicolette Zeeman) by Cambridge University Press, 2010: it is still the great account of multilingual and supra-regional literary culture in England. The 1988 edition is in Walsh, and a copy of the 2010 edition will be put on reserve as soon as possible. Part I (chs. 1-3) is the part to read for this course: it sets the cultural patterns for the C11th-13th and helps in reading  forwards into the C14th-15th (rather than reading by hindsight as in the old teleological nationalizing paradigms).

(iv) The main introduction to Wogan-Browne et al, eds, Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England c. 1100-c. 1500 (Boydell and Brewer with York Medieval Press, 2009) pp. 1-13 will tell you about the history of the field of FoE and where we are now: various chapters from this volume open more detailed windows into particular times and ways in which taking the French of England into account affects our conception of literary culture and history from the Anglo-Saxon period to the Early Modern.

(v) The best single chapter account of Anglo-Norman literature (C12th-14this Susan Crane’s chapter Anglo-Norman Cultures in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed.David Wallace (Cambridge, 1999) (ebook in Walsh).

(v) For  discussion of the literary-linguistic situation in the later fourteenth century and beyond, the most important background book is Ardis Butterfield, The Familiar Enemy: Chaucer, Language and Nation in the Hundred Years War (Oxford, 2010) (E-book in Walsh).

(vi) if you are interested in what happens to French in England in the late C15th and C16th, have a look at Deanne Williams, The French Fetish from Chaucer to Shakespeare (Cambridge University Press, 2004),  interesting and provocative, though not fully multinlingual in its conceptualisation, or read ch. 27 of Wogan-Browne, et al, Language and Culture (Tim Machan’s “ French, English, and the Late Medieval Linguistic Repertoire”, pp. 363-72, which deals with what happens to the linguistic ecology of England in the C15th into the C16th and beyond).

This outline lists the principal texts (not the selected secondary reading) for each week’s seminar in Fall 2015: detailed plans, information and discussion topics with further bibliography will be issued as briefing sheets in advance for each week.

The classes take 3 hours (including a short break).  The weekly literary seminar will be c. 1.5 hours, following the weekly linguistic practicum (also c. 1.5 hours), which will as far as possible use examples from the seminar reading. The schedule here enables you to plan your own primary reading: however if I have set too much or too little, we may decide on some minor modifications.

For required texts and preliminary reading please see the attached list. Please also be sure to obtain the texts for at least the first few seminars ASAP so you can get ahead with your reading preparation.

Assessment will be by:

  • class attendance and contribution, including short (c. 5 minutes) presentations to open up discussion of a topic
  • linguistic exercises/quizzes/translations done in or for the practicum
  • an exercise in textual methods, done to a deadline in your own time, not as an exam, and due in by Thanksgiving): for instance, a formal explication de texte on a short set passage, combining linguistic and literary analysis; a detailed comparison between a French and an Old English or Middle English text of some relation, actual or proposed, to each other; a short passage in a single manuscript transcription, translation and commentary.
  • a final substantial project: this may take various forms (to be decided in consultation), including a conventional long essay.  Depending on your choice of topic and theme, other activities such as editing and translating may form part of your project.  Due at the end of the course.


Week One Sept 8th Seminar 1

Introductory Practicum: Hearing Anglo-Norman, Seeing Anglo-Norman Orthography.

Seminar: The French of England and Multilingualism. (see document on preliminary reading).

Week Two Sept 15th Seminar 2 Patronage and the notion of authorship in Angevin cultures

Geffrei Gaimar, Prologue to the Estoire des Engleis; The Voyage of St Brendan; Marie de France, Lanval

Week Three Sept 22nd Seminar 3 Rumanz reading, inscribed audiences and their responses

Denis Piramus, Prologue to the Life of St Edmund of East Anglia; Marie de France, Yonec; Clemence

of Barking, Vie de sainte Catherine

Week Four Sept 29th Seminar 4 Vernacular hermeneutics

Marie de France selected Fables, plus associated prologue and epilogue; Prologue to the Lais (MS Harley

978); Clemence of Barking, Prologue to St Catherine

Week Five Oct 6th Seminar 5 Origins and their scandals

Wace, Roman de Brut: About the Great Giants

Short Translation and grammar parsing exercise due at the practicum for Tuesday 13th Oct.

Week Six Oct 13th Seminar 6 Re-inventing origins

Fouke Fitz Waryn prologue, Mohun Chronicle, Genealogical Rolls, Life of St Osith

Instructions for linguistic exercise will be given out at this meeting.

Week Seven Oct 20th Seminar 7 Insular and intraregional

Roman de Horn (C12th verse) and Fouke le Fitz Waryn (prose remaniement of C13th verse).

Week Eight Oct 27th Seminar 8 Europe and its discontents

Boeve de Hamtoune or Gui de Warewic (tbd), C13th verse romances. Brief excerpts from Secré de

secreez, Mandeville’s Livre.

Week Nine Nov 3rd Seminar 9 Transposing the holy

St George, Mary Magdalene Prologue to the Destructioun de Rome and to The History of the Holy Grail.

Linguistic exercise due in at this meeting (now transferred to 10th Nov.)

Week Ten Nov 10th Seminar 10 Literature and knowledge

Prologues and their contexts: Rauf de Linham, Ornatus mulierum, Treatise on Menstruation, Lumere as lais

and medieval language teaching guides

Note: Before Thanksgiving, you must make an individual appointment with JWB to discuss your final

project. You should also arrange for a second appointment to report progress and bring up any problems

by or during Week Fourteen.

Week Eleven Nov 17th Seminar 11 The body of sin and the languages of redemption

Henry, Duke of Lancaster, Livre de seyntz medicines and John of Howden Rossignos

Week Twelve Nov 24th Seminar 12 (Possibilities to be discussed when I have a better sense of people’s

interests: possibilities include estates satire, passion meditation, documentary petitions and texts with legal


[Thanksgiving, Wed 25th-Nov 29th ]

Week Thirteen Dec 1st Seminar 13 Presentation of individual course projects to the seminar group

(attendance mandatory for all).

Week Fourteen Dec 8th Seminar 14 No Seminar: individual consultations (available from Dec 2nd onwards).

Week Fifteen Dec 15th

Final Projects: due by 7pm on Dec 15th.

Dec 22nd Final day of exams/classes. Grades to be entered by this date.