Semplicemente uomini. Lectio divina monastica sulla Genesi (Italian Edition)
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The established setup of the disciplines engaged with medieval written texts history, literature, liturgy, philosophy, philology, law, theology and more still structures the distribution of material too rigidly when it comes to the mass of texts written, translated and copied in this period. The boundaries between edifying, critical, devotional, entertaining, practical, institutional, private, original, and derivative texts were highly fluid in the Middle Ages, although modern compartmentalizations and sensibilities still work to keep them apart.
The continuum and full extent of the written texts of a given period, area or social network within medieval Europe are in need of further promotion as a fitting subject for both literary and historical scrutiny. One of the productive aspects of studying medieval literature see also below on medieval is precisely that such a long time-span with relatively few texts but only when compared to print culture! The literary study of medieval texts is itself influenced by narrower modern senses of literature as the locus of individual viewpoints and the mode of expressing ambiguity and emotions; this expectation has partly been responsible for the narrow, vernacular, poetic and fictional medieval canon.
But with the growing importance of the linguistic turn and, more recently, of cultural memory studies in which subjective and partial experience is allowed to be more constitutive of real history literature in the very broad sense acquires new relevance. We obviously think and speak in modern categories, but we leave too much out of sight if we do not apply them generously or mistake our modern disciplines for more than necessary taxonomies.
Consider an example, among very many: the small important treatise known as Liber de causis The Book of Causes, c. Broadly regarded in the thirteenth century as the pinnacle of Aristo- Interfaces pp. It was studied in al-andalus in the twelfth century by Jewish and Muslim scholars and translated from Arabic into Latin by Gerhard of Cremona d.
In the thirteenth century it became a university text, promoted by Roger Bacon d. In short, we are here faced with a difficult anonymous text in Latin belonging to no modern nation and to no one medieval confessional position, but one that was at many points in time during the Middle Ages at the core of learning and the quest for wisdom. Philosophical erudition, translations, commentaries, mystic texts, etc. For Alain of Lille and Meister Eckhart they were very much in the foreground. In the present issue the historian of philosophy, Thomas Ricklin, further explores this border zone between literature and philosophy.
Chronicles constitute another rich and distinctive group of European texts that sit uneasily between modern disciplines; until recently mostly classified as sources, chronicles are now more frequently and productively allowed literary value or relevance. This disciplinary distinction does not altogether disappear, but by suspending it, our vision includes more texts and our understanding of medieval historical narratives meets fewer obstacles Mortensen, Nordic.
One brief example, in which the value of cross- or nonnationalizing approaches is obvious, may be mentioned. Towards the end of the reign of Philip Augustus, around , a major piece of French historical writing c. It is usually ignored in modern literary history, although it covers crusading history very competently and is a rich document of royal and aristocratic attitudes and narrative self-understanding.
Attesting to its importance are fifty-one extant Interfaces pp. Through the French adaptation, William of Tyre s chronicle became the main vehicle of the early crusading story world for the rest of the Middle Ages throughout Latin Europe. Issa; Handyside. However, it remains a high quality work of great contemporary significance which is most productively understood in the intersection between history, philologies, and literature.
Despite its literary inventiveness, the Middle Ages retained to a very large extent ancient taxonomies when discussing literature, even though new labels did arise. Poetics and literary theory often lag behind actual use and production, and some types of texts, e. Originally a life of Buddha from India, the story succeeded, through a sequence of translations both to the west and east of its place of origin, in becoming one the best known stories throughout Europe as a Christian saint s life Cordoni; Uhlig and Foehr-Janssens.
Its status as translation into Greek, Latin, Church Slavonic, Hebrew, Arabic, Georgian, French, German, Old Norse, English and many other languages of both East and West has barred it from being included seriously in literary studies, just as its Muslim and Christian draperies for centuries concealed its basically Buddhist teaching. It is the aim of Interfaces further to introduce such medieval texts into discussions that are not hindered by conceptual boundaries of the past, be they medieval or more modern, and likewise to take a critical stance towards our contemporary frames of reference, and their preoccupations.
Interfaces pp. There are many reasons for scholarly unease with the category medieval: theoretical debates about periodization and about the increasing application of medieval to non-european cultures, and specific anxieties both about the meaningfulness of the medieval period and about the popular image of the Middle Ages stand out. Without putting those concerns aside, indeed on the contrary, while inviting contributions which interrogate the category medieval, Interfaces sets out to include within its remit a wide chronological range, from c.
At the other end, the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance can be easily crossed in the West, and the early centuries of the Ottomans included in the East. It is when looking at the material culture of writing that the Middle Ages takes on a coherence as the age of the manuscript codex, already introduced before the fourth century and then gaining in importance until the Gutenberg parenthesis Pettitt , the period from c to c when the fixity of print was the supreme privileged carrier of texts.
If so our field, the European, remains medieval a bit longer than areas further east in Asia, where print was introduced centuries earlier but without the same dynamic effects of volume and distribution that moveable type technology had almost immediately in Europe. If the introduction of print in Europe, with Latin script soon followed by that of Greek, and later also by Hebrew and Arabic, marks the end of our period, it is important to note that it had already been prepared for, or even forced into being, by an increase in writing in the centuries before.
The exponential rise in the production of books within this period is a fundamental development across Europe during the high and late Middle Ages. As Eltjo Buringh has shown in compiling tentative statistics for survival rates of manuscripts with Latin script, the crucial dynamics of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries bear clear witness to the growing importance of written communication, and the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries display an extraordinary output, facilitated also by paper codices especially in the fifteenth century.
These last two centuries of the Western Middle Ages produced, according to the estimate, a staggering eight mil- Interfaces pp. Fundamental to our conceptualisations of the medieval codex copied by hand is the still very recent move of our late modernity from millions of printed books to innumerable fluid web pages. Media revolutions, now centrally including the written word, make a fuller understanding of the late medieval revolution the more crucial and enable us to see it from new angles. From an heuristic point of view, the Middle Ages have a distinct advantage on which Interfaces intends to capitalize.
Although we have specialisms within the period c. Indeed, the habits of the national philologies mean that chronological breadth is more common among literary scholars than geographical breadth. The intellectual discipline of chronological range positions medievalists to make a strong contribution in moving away from overspecialization and towards collaboration and long-term history. Drawing on classical models, the fifth-century historiographer, a Roman from what is now Spain, writing at the behest of Augustine of Hippo, a Roman from what is now Algeria, described the contours of Asia, Africa and Europe in extensive detail.
The Atlantic Ocean defined a clear boundary in the West, while in the East, where Europe meets Asia, boundaries were more ambiguous. He situates Asia Minor between Europe and Asia, certainly not part of Europe, but not quite fully part of Asia either. In the South, the islands of the Mediterranean are ascribed neither to Europe nor Africa but to the space between. Alongside its scope, the later circulation and translation of Orosius s text make the Historiae an example of and figure for the wide range of people who had a stake in Europe in the Middle Ages.
The Historiae was the most widely circulated text of ancient history in the West throughout the Middle Ages. It was translated into languages as representative of the diversity of Europe as Old English, Arabic and Italian. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries it was adapted and translated into French in the aristocratic environment of the Histoire ancienne , Italian, and Aragonese. Orosius s Historiae show us the movement of a text across time, space, beliefs, languages and social contexts, the shared Greco-Roman inheritance of Christians and Muslims, and the social networks that created these interconnections not only within Europe but between Europe and her neighbours and their neighbours.
Yet, despite the availability of the idea of Europe, it was only rarely deployed in political and cultural terms in the Middle Ages. These dichotomies between the capacious Europe we see by following Orosius s Historiae, the exclusive Europe of Latin Christendom, and the situation of Byzantium as the meeting point of Europe, Asia and in some centuries Africa, not only remain with us today but have become politically pressing and sensitive, particularly in the context of the expansion of the EU and migration. The accession of Greece and of countries formerly in the Soviet Bloc, the exclusion of Turkey, conflict with Russia, the issue of internal re colonization from Greece to Ireland , the status of minorities and migrants, and resistance to centralization in the UK and Scandinavia all mean that Europe is a strong but deeply contested idea in contemporary discourse.
Modern politics do inevitably inform the accounts we give of the Middle Ages and their literary and linguistic heritage; for that meeting of modern and medieval to be constructive, Europe must be negotiated with self-awareness. Thus, while Interfaces takes a broad view of European literary cultures and their wider connections in the Middle Ages as its object of study, it does not take Europe whether an antique geographical term, a medieval discourse of exclusion, or a modern polity as a self-evident frame of reference.
Rather, Interfaces aims to explore not only the literary cultures of medieval Europe and their place in a wider world, but also the value of Europe as a framework for the study of medieval literature. European paradigms for medieval literature open up many new vantage points. Most obviously, they offer alternatives to the potential narrowness and exceptionalism of nationalizing literary history. Recent work on multilingualism see Kragl in this issue; Tyler , on French as a European rather than national language see Gaunt in this issue , on Alexander the Great Gaullier-Bougassas , the use of Slavonic in both the Catholic and Orthodox rites Verkholantsev , the interaction of Latin, Syriac and Georgian models with Byzantine hagiography Efthy miadis , and the itineraries of late medieval literary cultures Wallace attest to the productiveness of Europe.
A European level of analysis can also enable medieval studies to contribute more fully to wider work on the place of pre-modern cultures in the developing field of global literature. Here examples include the opening up of the shared Greco-Roman heritage of the Latin West, Byzantium and Islam, the place of Arabic and Hebrew as languages of Europe, and the role of the Silk Route in the exchange of stories and learning in the continuous Afro-Eurasian space. In the specific Interfaces pp. Interfaces aims to foster methodological and theoretical innovations and reflections which build on and work between the frameworks of the national philologies.
World literature is an obvious disciplinary inspiration, even if we proceed from a regional frame, drawing on both literary and historical practices. Comparative literature has been incisive in exposing shared dimensions of national literary canons while at the same time making what is distinctive apparent. Recent theorizing of entangled history, with its emphasis on interconnections, can situate comparativism within a more social framework and offer greater possibility for explanation of commonality and divergence.
Critically, interconnections neither presuppose integration nor diversity within Europe, nor are they rooted in a paradigm of rigid notions of otherness when looking across Europe, Asia and North Africa.
European frameworks too invite work that steps out of overspecialised notions of expertise and work which is collaborative. Furthermore, European frameworks demand multinational and multilingual contributors and collaborators, from within and beyond Europe. Where national philologies project the modern nation into the past, Interfaces sees a challenge for European literary study in avoiding the simple replacement of methodological nationalism with methodological Europeanism, as is so often the case, especially and most explicitly when it is institutionalised by EU funded research.
It should be made explicit that for Interfaces our concern with Europe does not presuppose a focus on European identity, but simply that a topic cannot be contained within the parameters of the national philologies. This might include work on a region that is either within Europe or includes part of Europe, e. In the final analysis, it is essential that national and European approaches work together.
Most medieval literary scholars are trained in and teach in institutional structures invested in the national philologies. These structures show little sign of changing. If anything, as the teaching of foreign languages other than English retreats and the medieval stages of literature and language receive reduced attention in general studies programmes, being shaped within a single phi- Interfaces pp. The challenge becomes to teach the medieval literary past of a single language, often known only in translation, as participating in wider cultures, be that Europe, the Mediterranean or the Silk Route, for example.
As our own world becomes quickly more global, Interfaces sets out to encourage dialogue between national, European, western and non-western readings of medieval literature. Addressing the European enables the study of medieval literature to contribute to the understanding of the complex layering of local, national, regional and global identities experienced in the contemporary world. Through this focus and our contributors quite different responses to the challenge we have set out to stimulate reflections on the basic dynamic between research object and research agenda. Standard literary history, even when it does not use the terms representation and explanation, operates by displaying and describing a long series of objects representation and establishing links or breaks between them explanation.
An important premise for such a discussion is that by Histories of Literatures we are not primarily thinking of all the existing single or multivolume works at hand, but rather of the practices they reflect and support: in teaching, in anthologies, in translations, in library and bookshop taxonomies etc. We embrace the recent chastened return to literary history which is able to recognize the epistemological, heuristic and communicative value of narratives of the past.
Much has definitely been learned from the intellectual rejection of literary history e. Conrady; Perkins; Gumbrecht, Histories and our emphasis on histories plural is important; it is simultaneously open to contingency, conscious of teleology cf. Grabes and Sichert; excellent analysis of the epistemology of historical writing with a different terminology by Munslow, Narrative; History. To dismiss the relevance or feasibility of literary history is a luxury scholars already steeped in literary history can perhaps afford at least theoretically , but this move prevents commu- Interfaces pp.
Admitting the relevance of literary history in this sense, we are still faced with the connection between setting up a selection of works for scrutiny on the one hand, and asking research questions to make wider sense of them on the other. In the nationalizing philological practices of medieval literary history the selection remains defined by language sometimes with openings to other languages, especially Latin in Western and Greek in Eastern Europe and with an observant eye to the boundaries of the given modern state.
Now that alternative, non-nationalizing points of departures are considered, the research agenda suddenly becomes very urgent: when the selection of works for representation is no longer given, the explanandum becomes both more open and more powerful. From a different position, that of modern comparative literature, Sven Erik Larsen offers an analysis of the same dynamic, namely of the move from quite rigid national canons and the kind of comparative reasoning they foster to much more diverse interdisciplinary and multi-methodological approaches in which the horizons of texts have become global.
This brings us to a final key problem of any concept of literary history, whether national, cross-national, European or other: teleology. Teleology is easy to denounce in some forms for instance nationalizing and Europeanizing in a deterministic version. But following Arthur Danto s insights with an adjustment of his terminology in Narration and Knowledge , teleological narratives are not only unavoidable, they are necessary for any kind of historical understanding. Although we are always operating with multiple possible Interfaces pp.
Sentences like this was the first time love had been analysed in lyrical form, or this would become the standard novella structure in the fourteenth century, or this work found few readers and was forgotten until the Renaissance, are normal narrative sentences written with hindsight, and they are the ones that make the longer lines in our direction of literary history identifiable and understandable.
Important new attitudes, features, and modes of writing may have been completely surprising, unsuspected and unexplainable when they happened like many other historical phenomena , but to us whatever our place and position in the present they changed forever the significance of what went before them. Historical narratives, including literary history, are teleological and they must be; they can, however, still be written without any assumption of necessary development.
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A distinction could be drawn between epistemological and ideological teleology, of which the latter is now usually strongly condemned as in Hutcheon , but the two sides are obviously also connected, with an ideological position always being involved cf. Habermas; Fokkema and Ibsch. Teleology should not be avoided, but it is of course crucial to reflect on the subjects and substance of change in any new narrative. It can no longer be only national characteristics tied to the national languages, nor can it be idealized literary genres cf.
It is in the choice of regions, materials, languages, periods, types of contexts and historical questioning and more that new ideas and practices of European literary history must strike a balance between epistemological and ideological teleology, obviously including reflections on the position from which we now select, categorize, evaluate, represent and explain medieval works.
We are delighted to offer our readers a range of such positions from the start in our first collection of articles and are looking forward to receiving contributions which pursue the theme of literary history directly and indirectly in subsequent issues. Literary history, however conceived and practiced, is an act of teleology which insists that the past remains integral to the present, just as the present is integral to the past.
It does not charge either submission or publication fees nor article-processing expenses and it provides immediate access to its content, on the principles that publicly funded research should be free and widely disseminated and that making research freely available supports a greater global exchange of knowledge and fosters advance in learning. Furthermore, in order to promote the continued linguistic diversity of medieval literary study, we publish across five European scholarly languages: French, German, Italian, and Spanish as well as English.
The individual volumes of Interfaces can be downloaded in full to encourage reading across the range of each issue. Interfaces was initiated by the Centre for Medieval Literature University of Southern Denmark and University of York with a grant from the Danish National Research Foundation and is published by the University of Milan through its digital platform for open-access journals. Providing standards and interoperability, the technical infrastructure of Interfaces fosters dissemination and searchability of the research results, as recommended by the European Commission Communication A Digital Agenda for Europe.
Moreover, the mechanisms, infrastructure, and software solutions of the University of Milan enable long-term preservation of research results in digital form, as required by the Comission Recommendation of on access to and preservation of scientific information. Acknowledgements In publishing Issue 1 of Interfaces. A Journal of Medieval European Literatures we would like to thank a number of people and institutions who have helped us in designing, developing, and bringing the project to fruition: Interfaces pp.
Historical Representation. Histoire de la lecture dans le Interfaces pp. Gulielmo Cavallo et Roger Chartier. Paris: Seuil, Borsa, Paolo. Poesia e politica nell Italia di Dante. Milano: Ledizioni, Brown, Peter. Turnhout: Brepols, Chalkokondyles, Laonikos. The Histories. Anthony Kaldellis. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library.
Illusionen der Literaturgeschichte. Essays zu Literatur und Zeitgeschehen. Darstellung der Stofftraditionen Bibliographie Studien. Narration and Knowledge including the integral text of Analytical Philosophy of History. With a new introduction by Lydia Goehr and a new conclusion by Frank Ankersmit. Davis, Kathleen. Les Latins parlent aux Latins. Les Grecs, Les Arabes et nous. Guillaume de Tyr et ses continuateurs. Knowledge and Commitment. A Problem-oriented Approach to Literary Studies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, Franklin, Simon.
The History Manifesto. Medievalism and the Modernist Temper. Howard R. Bloch and Stephen G. New Literary History Erkenntnis und Interesse. Im Anhang: Nach dreissig Jahren. Bemerkungen zu Erkenntnis und Interesse. Collectanea Christiana Orientalia, 7 : Interfaces pp. Medieval Letters between Fiction and Document.
Turnhout: Brepols, Hutcheon, Linda. Rethinking the National Model. Rethinking Literary History. A Dialogue on Theory. Linda Hutcheon and Mario J. Mayte Penelas. Hamburg: Meiner, Mallette, Karla. European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean. Old Concepts and New Poetics. The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. Volume 2: The Middle Ages. Reflections on Expanding Interdisciplinary Border Zones. Narrative and History. A History of History. London: Routledge, Old English Orosius, ed. Janet Bately. Early English Texts Society, s.
Historiarum adversum paganos libri VII. Karl Zangemeister. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 5. Andrew T. Translated Texts for Historians Pubblicato e illustrato con note dal dott. Francesco Tassi. Firenze: per T. Baracchi, Perkins, David. Is Literary History Possible?
A Companion to New Media Dynamics. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, Raffensberger, Christian. Medieval Ideas of Europe and their Modern Historians. History Workshop Journal 33 : Rigney, Ann. Transforming Memory and the European Project. Speculum 88 : Strootman Rolf and Michele Campopiano, eds.
De klassieke oudheid in de islamitische wereld. Special issue of Lampas: Tijdschrift voor classici, 46 Tyler, Elizabeth M. Conceptualizing Multilingualism in England, c. D Orient en Occident. Turnhout: Brepols Verkholantsev, Julia. The Slavic Letters of St. Europe: A Literary History, vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming Interfaces pp. Life along the Silk Road. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 63 63A.
Turnhout: Brepols, William of Tyre. Emily Atwater Babcock and August C. Taking as its starting point the key role played in the development of textual culture in French by geographical regions that are either at the periphery of French-speaking areas, or alternatively completely outside them, this article offers three case studies: first of a text composed in mid-twelfthcentury England; then of one from early thirteenth-century Flanders; and finally from late thirteenth-century Italy. What difference does it make if we do not read these texts, and the language in which they are written, in relation to French norms, but rather look at their cultural significance both at their point of production, and then in transmission?
A picture emerges of a literary culture in French that is mobile and cosmopolitan, one that cannot be tied to the teleology of an emerging national identity, and one that is a bricolage of a range of influences that are moving towards France as well as being exported from it. French itself functions as a supralocal written language even when it has specific local features and therefore may function more like Latin than a local vernacular. Introduction It may seem paradoxical to devote an article to the literary history of a single vernacular in a collection devoted to exploring a European and comparative perspective.
Yet if we take seriously the imperative to uncouple literary traditions from retroactive national literary historical narratives, narratives that began in the later Middle Ages but which notoriously reach their apogee in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when they tied literary traditions to nation states and national languages, one corollary is that a common language may unify different peoples across political borders, fostering a collective identity rather than fragmented local identities.
The research presented in this article was conducted within the framework of a collaborative project involving colleagues from Cambridge University, King s College London and University College London, funded by the UK s Arts and Humanities Research Council. However, the implications of this are rarely fully examined. Often a more traditional, Franco-centric literary history prevails, according to which French literary culture has its origin in France, and as the Middle Ages advance emanates outwards from France, particularly Paris, to other parts of Europe, with textual production and dissemination elsewhere adduced as evidence of the pre -eminent influence of French courtly culture from This article suggests an alternative model for the history of medieval literature in French, centripetal rather than centrifugal, by focusing initially on three case studies, each of which represents a key place and epoch in the development of literature in French outside France, before returning briefly to the more traditional canon to see how literary history may look different if a more diverse geographical arena is taken into account, and also manuscript dissemination as well as textual production.
On the other hand, they also call into question what we mean by the literary, in that medieval textual culture in French often seems more concerned with something we might loosely consider history rather than the fiction that dominates modern literary canons. Furthermore, this history for which readers of French clearly had a great appetite was not first and foremost a French history, but rather one that concerned the relation of medieval Christendom more generally to the Classical past. A final question raised by my approach, then, is: exactly what do these texts seek to represent and for whom?
England c Modern medieval French literary studies have often privileged the twelfth century as the high point of the tradition. The glories of the Interfaces pp. Few scholars would now accept this caricature of literary history, but twelfth-century texts and authors still dominate many university syllabi. They are also the object of a disproportionate amount of attention from medievalists working in other languages looking to chart the influence of French literature on other literary traditions and of a disproportionate share of research in the field.
It is well known, of course, that some of our most canonical twelfth-century texts written in French come from England in one way or another: for example the Chanson de Roland at least in its canonical Oxford version , Marie de France s Lais, and Thomas s Tristan. Yet none of these texts was widely disseminated in French in the Middle Ages even if they seem to have been better known through translations into other languages , which suggests at the very least a disjuncture between modern and medieval aesthetic judgements.
When the role of England in the emergence of French literature is acknowledged which is not always the case , scholars turn to history to offer an explanation. Two key historical factors are evoked. First, the Norman Conquest of ; secondly the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry of Anjou in followed by Henry s succession to the throne of England in It is superfluous to rehearse the impact of and in detail.
William of Normandy s victory at Hastings in allowed him to implant in England a Norman French speaking aristocratic elite, which meant that French was a language widely used by England s aristocratic and clerical elites throughout the rest of the Middle Ages even if quickly they also became English speaking. This Gallicization of the culture of the English aristocracy and high clergy was no doubt accelerated, however, by the accession of Henry of Anjou to the English throne and the creation thereby of the so-called Angevin empire, since French-speaking Henry, his wife Eleanor previously queen of France , and then their four French-speaking sons effectively ruled lands from England s border with Scotland to the Pyrenees.
The extent of the Francophone literary culture generated by and for the elite social strata of England is considerable: Ruth Dean s catalogue of Anglo-Norman texts includes items. But institutional and national biases have shaped modern apprehension of this material. The same is true other collected volumes on related topics, such as Kleinheinz and Busby. See in particular the essays in Wogan-Browne, but for some different perspectives see also the essays in Tyler.
Anglo-Norman literature was thus often implicitly regarded as an English affair. The first decade of the twenty-first century has seen the transformation and complete revitalisation of this field, thanks to the pioneering work of scholars such as Ardis Butterfield, David Trotter, and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne. Thus, the much-expanded on-line Anglo-Norman Dictionary a project led by David Trotter now provides an unrivalled research resource that greatly improves our knowledge of the lexis of texts in French produced in the British Isles; Jocelyn Wogan-Brown, in the introduction to the collection Language and Culture in Medieval Britain, published in , has redefined and rebaptised Anglo-Norman as the French of England, drawing attention in particular to the variety, ubiquity and longevity of French in England; and Ardis Butterfield has influentially shown in her book The Familiar Enemy the extent to which later medieval English identity is bound up not only with England s relation to France, but even more significantly with a pervasive and deeply embedded dialogue with French literary texts.
It is striking, however, that much of this important work remains largely though not exclusively focused on the multilingualism of Insular culture, and on Insular cultural history; it is also noteworthy that this vibrant new field is dominated by English-speaking scholars and scholars of English literature. One issue here may be the assumption that when what we call the French language is used, this necessarily connotes primarily a relation to France. This may be the case, but when it is considered that French was used widely throughout Europe in Flanders, Italy, the Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere as a language of trade and culture, there is a strong case for considering the networks for which French was a conduit in the British Isles as more complex than the focus on an English French axis sometimes implies.
If quantities of surviving manuscripts and texts are anything to go by, England plays a significant role in the development of Franco- Interfaces pp. Indeed, a sustained Francophone textual culture in England precedes the emergence of a sustained vernacular written culture in France itself. Furthermore, many of these translations are broadly speaking devotional or learned, and may emanate from religious communities rather than courtly settings.
It is instructive to consider this data alongside insights from palaeography, codicology and philology, according to which the emerging script for writing French in twelfth-century England for which there is no sustained continental precedent was influenced and shaped by the scripts used to write Old English and Insular Latin.
To what extent, however, is it helpful to disregard the French used in England? And given the scattered nature of the manuscript evidence for continental French in the twelfth century can we really be sure that the vernacular begins to be used extensively in literary manuscripts from the middle of the twelfth century?
This means we have to be cautious, without further research, about drawing any conclusions regarding the emergence, relation and chronological sequence of different scriptae for writing French in the twelfth century. For Lusignan, the territories on either side of the Interfaces pp. As Lusignan s equation here of regional form and scripta suggests, a scripta may derive from a local dialect, but it is a written convention and thereby mobile, so potentially at least supralocal. Lusignan is no doubt being deliberately provocative here in relation to the precedence that some scholarship has traditionally accorded central French from the outset when he suggests it is only accessoirement a scripta, but he thereby usefully challenges received wisdom about centre and periphery.
In the zone in which he is interested Central French is indeed peripheral. Thus when the crosschannel links between religious institutions in England and Normandy and the bidirectional cross-channel movement of scriptae and texts are set alongside the sheer quantity of surviving early manuscripts in French from England, a picture emerges of a written textual culture in French beginning in a so-called peripheral zone, one where it is not the mother tongue of the overwhelming majority of the population, and then moving towards the area usually taken to be its centre, but in a form strongly marked by the graphic systems of other languages i.
Latin and English. The text on which I focus here, Geoffrey Gaimar s Estoire des Engleis composed in Lincolnshire c , cited from Ian Short s edition , is every bit as foundational for Francophone textual culture as the Oxford Roland, Marie de France s Lais, or Thomas s Tristan, yet it has received only a fraction of the scholarly attention. The Estoire is the earliest surviving example of French vernacular historiography. Although Gaimar uses a variety of different sources of which more shortly , his line poem of octosyllabic rhyming couplets is a loose adaptation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which makes him also the earliest known translator of English into French.
His account runs from the earliest Saxon and Danish invasions in the late fifth century through to the death of William Rufus. I will return to the text s epilogues, but there is more than a hint there and in the Estoire s opening lines 1 16 that the surviving text was originally the second half of a diptych, the first of which almost certainly had Geoffrey of Monmouth s Historia Regum Britanniae c.
In all four surviving manuscripts, which are of insular prov- Interfaces pp. There is not a great deal of critical literature on Gaimar s Estoire and virtually none in French. Yet Gaimar s racy account of English history exploits pace and dramatic poise to considerable effect, it is linguistically inventive, and it strikingly breaks new ground in terms of using a Romance vernacular to write history. Furthermore, Gaimar may have been influential in shaping how subsequent writers would use the octosyllabic rhyming couplet for secular narrative Wace for example and his work has erotic and chivalric elements that precociously anticipate subsequent verse romance.
Ian Short has done much to set out the merits and interest of Gaimar s Estoire, but as he points out Geiffrei Gaimar liii if historians have seen the text s merits as a source, all too often it is referred to only in passing and usually either in negative terms by literary scholars, who also in my view have a tendency to pigeon-hole Gaimar as a stooge of the Norman regime. Thus Laura Ashe, in her study of Fiction and History in England, , mentions Gaimar only in passing and sticks with examples from the modern canon in English, French, and Latin. Her main evaluation of Gaimar is that his Estoire des Engleis s and the Lai d Haveloc c derived from Gaimar are monuments to the Normans appropriation of England, and the characteristics of insular narrative To read the Estoire exclusively in relation to the Conquest and within the framework of insular narrative is not, however, entirely satisfactory.
Furthermore, Gaimar s sense of right and wrong in relation to the Conquest is terse and schematic: Engleis cump[r]erent lur ultrages the English paid dearly for their outrageous be- Interfaces pp. Yet when the Conquest is set in the broader context of Gaimar s account of English history, it is clear that the Normans are but the latest in a long line of gent de ultramarine to have invaded England and then become assimilated.
The fact that so many waves of invading Saxons and Danes become assimilated into the English aristocratic elite renders any sense of purely English identity, as opposed to Saxon, Danish or Norman identity, difficult to discern. As this altogether typical case indicates, marriage practices among the social elite of medieval Europe sought to unite warring factions, or potential allies, often across long distances. The most striking case of the Estoire s representation of a Dane complicating any straightforward opposition between the Engleis and the Daneis is Cnut.
The English, the Estoire tells us, flocked to Cnut s support when he invaded. Cnut, king of England from to as well as king of Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden, gets a wholly good press from Gaimar as a good king. The portrayal of Cnut s attempted reconciliation with Edmond Ironside, following his capture of half the kingdom, is particularly positive.
He addresses Edmund thus: Eadmund, un poi atent! Daneis le tint en chef de Deu, Mordret donat Certiz son feu: Il ne tient unkes chevalment, De lui vindrent vostre parent. Ne jo ne vus ne se complaigne! Puis conquerom cele partie Dunt jo ne vus n[en] avom mie! Edmund, wait a moment. I am a Dane and you are English; both of our fathers were kings, both ruled over the country, and each was master in the land.
As long as it was in their power to do so, each did exactly as he saw fit. Our Danish ancestors, I ll have you know, have been ruling here for a very long time. Almost a thousand years before king Cerdic came to the throne, Danr was king. Cerdic was your ancestor, and king Danr was mine. A Dane held the land in the chief from God. It was Mordred who granted Cerdic his fief; he never held in chief, and your family descended from him.
In case Interfaces pp. This is why I am willing to make you an offer [of peace] one that I will not seek to back down from: let us divide the kingdom exactly in two, with one part going to you and the other remaining with me, in such a way that neither I nor you will have any cause for complaint.
Thereafter let us conquer that part of the kingdom that neither you nor I have possession of. As we conquer it, so let s divide it between us. Let you and me be brothers by adoption! I shall swear a solemn oath to you, and you to me, that we will have the same sort of fraternal relations as if we had been born of the same mother, and as if were two brothers of the same father and the same mother. Let there be exchange of sureties between us: trust me and I shall trust you! The terms of this pact were not subsequently honoured because of underhand machinations in Edmund s camp then his death but the pact is sealed with a kiss and Edward implicitly accepts Cnut s argument that the two men have more in common than divides them as descendants from the same Royal Danish stock nostre parent in implicitly refers to both men , with a shared history of interrelations going back centuries.
Cnut s contention that whereas English royalty owes its sovereignty to a man Mordred , Danish royalty received its authority from God belies the text s earlier labelling of the Danes as pagans, but implicitly gives Cnut the greater right to rule. The Realpolitik of the two men agreeing to join together to share the parts of the kingdom neither controls is also instructive as to the solidarity of the English in the face of Danish invaders, and as in near contemporary chansons de geste, ideas of right and wrong tort, are subsumed to questions of power and domination: if you are right you win; you lose if wrong.
Ian Short remarks that one of the most unexpected aspects of Gaimar s attitude to English history is in his treatment of the Danes Geffrei Gaimar xliii and this precisely because they appear in a positive light. This has implications for how the text represents English identity. Even more significantly, the same process of the blurring of boundaries between the English and their antagonists occurs with the Normans.
Not coincidentally the beginning of this process both in the Estoire and in reality involves Cnut in that he marries Emma of Normandy, daughter and sister of the Duke of Normandy, who Interfaces pp. For an illuminating account of the networked nature of Norman England, see Bates, particularly had previously been married to Ethelred the Unready, mother of Edward the Confessor, king of England Though the Norman involvement in England starts earlier see for example line , it was through Emma that it intensified. William, in other words, is above all a cross-channel, cosmopolitan leader.
It is equally noteworthy that Gaimar oscillates between referring to the new ruling class as Normans and referring to them as French. Since their being French clearly gives no sense of their being associated with, or subject to, the French crown, French here simply means from the other side of the channel. If this is then put together with the frequent references to the presence of Flemings usually mercenaries in England , , , , , the political map of late eleventh- and early twelfth-century England Gaimar is implicitly drawing is not reducible simply to an English-Norman axis in the immediate post-conquest era.
The position of England, rather, is determined by a longer history of networks established by contact across the channel and the North Sea, with a good portion of the coast on the other side of the channel being French-speaking, though not politically French. William Rufus s courtly court is exemplary in this respect. In Gaimar s account, England has at this stage a cosmopolitan court at its symbolic centre where magnates from many different places gather, including from France as opposed to Normandy , where William is extending his power base with the enthusiastic help of English lords , or from Flanders.
Gaimar s playful attention to the squabbling of courtiers at William s coronation court notes the origins of the different factions, but their specific identity seems less important than the courtly scenario that underlines William s pre-eminence: Welsh kings vie for his favour at his court, and for the privilege of taking up the subservient position of sword bearer.
One lord, Hugh of Chester, balks at this, however, and after some courtly bantering, is asked to bear the golden royal staff instead. This courtly feinting leads to Hugh swearing fealty , which in turn leads to the granting of North Wales , but the dominant image of Interfaces pp. There is a second, shorter and more conventional, epilogue that only occurs in one of the four manuscripts; see Short, Geffrei Gaimar this passage is the spectacle of William s court as a place in which powerful men from Normandy and the British Isles vie with each other for positions of domestic subservience in the king s entourage.
This scene would not be out of place in an Arthurian romance. Tellingly within a hundred lines we are told of another of William s courtiers, Malcolm king of Scotland , who is involved in William s affairs on both sides of the channel, while Gaimar also underlines the connectedness of William to the Kingdom of Jerusalem through his fractious brother Robert. If Gaimar glosses over the unpleasantness of their family squabble, a picture nonetheless emerges of an England embedded in a complex set of networks stretching in all directions, even to the distant Eastern Mediterranean.
The purely Anglo-Norman axis of relations between England and Normandy, or even England and France, is but part of this more complex set of networks. What role does language play in this? In his lengthy epilogue, Gaimar stresses the multilingual nature of his sources: 9 Ceste estorie fist translater Dame Custance la gentil. Si sa dame ne i aidast, Ja a nul jor ne l achevast. Ele eveiad a Helmeslac Pur le livre Walter Espac.
Dame Custance l enpruntat De son seignur k el mult amat. De tut le plus pout ci trover Ki en cest livre volt esgarder. The noble lady Constance had this history adapted into French. Gaimar took March and April and a whole twelve months before finishing this adaptation of [the history of] the kings [of Britain].
He obtained a large number of copies of books English books, by dint of learned reading, and books both in the French vernacular and Latin before finally managing to bring his work to a conclusion. If his lady had not helped him, he would never have completed it. She sent to Helmsley for Walter Espec s book. Robert earl of Gloucester had had this historical narrative translated in accordance with the books belonging to the Welsh that they had in their possession on the subject of the kings of Britain. Walter Espec requested this historical narrative, earl Robert sent it to him, and then Walter Espec lent it to Ralf fitz Gilbert; lady Constance borrowed it from her husband, whom she loved dearly.
Geoffrey Gaimar made a written copy of the book and added it to the supplementary material that the Welsh had omitted, for he had previously obtained, Interfaces pp. And this historical narrative was improved by also by reference to the Winchester History, [that is,] a certain English book at Washingborough, in which he found a written account of the kings [of Britain] and of all the Emperors who had dominion over Rome and tribute from England, and of the kings who had held lands of these emperors, of their lives and their affairs, what happened to them and what deeds they performed, how each one governed the land, which one loved peace and which one war.
Anyone willing to look in this [Washingborough] book will be able to find there all this and more. The context in which Gaimar writes is portrayed as one in which books written in English, French, Latin, and Welsh are circulating among cultivated patrons eager to learn about English history, and a writer such as Gaimar is clearly expected to use sources in all four languages. But these languages differ in nature: whereas English and Welsh are local, indigenous languages, tied to specific regions and delimited communities, French and Latin are neither indigenous, nor specific to the British Isles.
Indeed, these languages enable textual mobility and translation in the physical sense of the term. It is interesting, then, that although the Welsh and English sources Gaimar uses are key to his endeavour, particularly the l estorie de Wincestre almost certainly the Winchester Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , these sources are also represented as in need of supplementation. I have retained Short s translation, but this masks a number of problems. First, in his translation of lines , he introduces the term French vernacular for clarity in order to translate romanz, which is indeed the standard word for French of the period.
But the syntax actually subordinates both romanz and latin in line to par gramaire in line In other words, both romanz and latin are types of gramaire, which is usually a synonym for Latin. This seems to imply that French should be regarded as equivalent to, or at least in the same class of languages, as Latin. Secondly, Short s translation specifies that cest livre in line is to be understood as this [Washingborough] book.
Yet syntactically it is equally possible that Gaimar refers here to his own book, particularly given the presence of the spatial marker ci in line , which Short translates as there, but more obviously means here. Thus, despite all the local and authoritative Latin sources, if you want to know de tut le plus in this instance you need a book in French in that you need to read Gaimar s Estoire. It is interesting, then, given the Estoire s status as the earliest surviving French history book, that Gaimar suggests that historical writing in French is already in circulation; he also goes on to spar with a figure called Davit, whose work is implicitly also in French, but whose account of history Gaimar finds wanting, though he sings well of courtly intrigue.
Given the status Gaimar assumes for French here, the purely insular circulation of the Estoire is striking. This cannot, however, be attributed to a lack of interest in his subject matter. This is not simply to do with the unmistakable Anglo-Norman phonological features found throughout the text see Short, Geffrei Gaimar xxxii xxxvii , which do not in and of themselves render the text incomprehensible to continental readers, nor would they preclude the transposition of the text into a more Continental form of French, which happens with other Anglo-Norman texts.
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