The French of England III: Documentary and Literary Culture

Taught by Professors Thelma Fenster and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne
Wednesdays: Linguistic practicum, 4:30-5:30 p.m.; Seminar discussion, 5:30-7:30 p.m


  • E. Einhorn, Old French: A Concise Handbook (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1974, repr 1999).
  • W. W. Kibler, An Introduction to Old French (New York: MLA, 1984).
  • Harriet Spiegel, ed. and tr., The Fables of Marie de France (Toronto, 1994)


  1. Translation assignment. (to be done over Spring Break, see Week Nine below)
  2. Course project essay or equivalent. Students are encouraged to begin early considering areas and themes that interest them and to discuss possible projects.
  3. Class presentations. Eleven seminars are available from Week Two onwards in which students may choose to offer brief introductory discussion papers or reports.
  4. Attendance, preparation and participation. (ça va sans dire, we think, for a graduate class), including satisfactory performance in the linguistic practicum sessions.


To see the detailed seminar plan and readings for each week, click on the seminar title.

Week One: 26th Jan: Introduction: Multilingualism in Theory and in Practice
Walter of Bibbesworth, Tretiz de Langage: The Distichs of Cato: ‘Saluz e solaz’
Secondary reading from Busby, Trotter, Clanchy.

Week Two: Feb 2: Oralities and Literacies
La Destructioun of Rome: The Anglo-Norman Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin
The Deeds of the Normans in Ireland.
Secondary reading from Clanchy, Bäuml, Stock and Spiegel.

Week Three: Feb 9: Patronage as a Condition of Textual Production and Preservation
Gaimar, The History of the English, epilogue
Matthew Paris, The Life of St Edmund, prologue and epilogue
The History of St Edward the King, prologue (MS on web)
Hue de Roteland, Protheslaus, prologue.
Secondary reading from Short, Pierre Nora

Week Four: Feb 16: Post-Lateran Selves and Literacies
Lambeth Hours, Anglo-Norman theological diagram
Angier of St Frideswide (extracts) Prologue to the Dialogues of Gregory the Great
Joan de Tateshull’s MS of the Manuel des pechés and the Chasteau d’amour
Secondary reading from Wogan-Browne, Watson and Wogan-Browne

Week Five: Feb 23: Patronage and the Vernacular Intellectual: Marie de France and Christine de Pizan
Two Fables by Marie de France; comparison of Marie de France literary prologues (Espurgatoire, Lais and Fables) with Christine de Pizan, selected prologues from Mutacion de Fortune; Book of the Duke of True Lovers; Letter or Othea; Trois Vertus; Cité des Dames.
Secondary reading from Fenster and others.

Week Six: March 2: Land, Law and Literature
The Life of St Osith: canon law on marriage from Gratien en français: excerpt from Britton on secular law /dowry. If time, Chasteau d’Amour (whole text).
Secondary readings from Zatta , Brand and Hyams on literature and law.

Week Seven: March 9: Language and Complaint
Guest: Prof. W. Mark Ormrod, University of York, UK: (literature and law: prob. Trailbaston). Students to read Prof. Ormrod’s Speculum article on law French in advance. (Steiner and Barrington’s collection on The Letter of the Law also useful). For translation, Prof. Ormrod will supply some of the French petitions from his project for making all extant parliamentary petitions in medieval England available.

Week Eight: March 16: Land and Lineage
The Brut tradition and lineage claims: Miroir des Justices
Albina, foundress of Britain: prose prologue from MS Ashmole 1804 (ed. Marvin)
Mohun chronicle and Scalacronica (extracts)

Week Nine: March 23: Spring Break and Easter (17-23 and 24-28th March)
(Translation passages and explication de texte to be done on selected Fables over break as a linguistic qualifying exam).

Week Ten: March 30: Civic Identities
The London Liber custumarumand documents of record
The Description of England and Lists of Towns
The Model City: Anglo-Norman Jerusalems
Secondary Reading from Kowaleski bibliography and from Lindenbaum, Fulton on civic literacies, linguistic reading on the French of the Grocer’s Company and the London Puy.

Week Eleven: April 6: Profession I: Medicine and Literature
Treatise on Menstruation (extract); Hermann de Valenciennes, The Romance of Jesus Christ and his Mother (the Virgin and the text as cure)
Henry of Lancaster, Livre des Seyntz Medecines (extracts).
Secondary Reading from Green, Batt, Taylor

Week Twelve: April 13: Profession II: Religious Profession
Extracts from Barking Abbey Ordinale; Crabhouse Nunnery Cartulary, Gratien en francais. The Abbey of the Holy Ghost (Continental C13th French, C14th-15th English text) French from microfilm print outs of Douce 265 (extracts). Middle English Abbey and Charter of the Holy GhostContinental C13th French, C14th-15th English. Secondary reading from Rice, Watson, Whitehead on ‘Castles of the Mind’, Emily Steiner on charters and literary genres.

Week Thirteen: April 20: Seminar: Course Projects Presentations
(short presentations by class members): individual consultation.

Week Fourteen: April 27: Seminar: Course Projects Presentations
(short presentations by class members): individual consultation.

Week Fifteen: May 4 Final Papers Due