16.08.08, Floquet and Giannini, eds., Anglo-français

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William Sayers

The Medieval Review 16.08.08

Floquest, Oreste, and Gabrielle Giannini, eds. Anglo-français: philologie et linguistique . Civilisation médiévale, 13. Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2015. pp. 162. ISBN: 978-2-8124-3420-4 (paperback).

Reviewed by:
William Sayers
Cornell University

In scholarship of the twentieth century the terms anglo-normand and Anglo-Norman were employed in linguistic and literary scholarship in a generally unspecific fashion for the period from the Norman invasion to the mid-fifteenth century, as if referring, on the one hand, to a dialect of French spoken in Normandy and transferred to Britain, where it continued as the language of an elite and, on the other, to a trans-Channel corpus of literature with shared objectives and esthetic. The center of gravity in these terms lay in normand/ Norman. A revitalization and radical change of perspective have been effected in this century. For many scholars, the center of gravity is now in the Anglo- of Anglo-French, as the language is seen to have had a pervasive, not exclusively elitist presence in Britain over several centuries, learned by many strata of British society and not simply taught on occasion to aspiring anglophones or to scions of aristocratic Norman families in danger of losing their linguistic heritage. At the same time, interest has expanded to the study of a wide variety non-narrative and non-literary texts, from the utilitarian to the moralizing. This re-creation of the sub-discipline permits us to see such familiar classics as the Lais of Marie de France and The Voyage of St. Brendan in newly informed and highly contextualized ways.

The collection of essays here under review originated in a conference in 2013 under the rubric Anglo-français: philologie et linguistique, in part with the objective of renewing Anglo-French studies in Italy. The resulting volume of eight essays does not, then, seek to report on the present state of play in the larger sphere of Anglo-French philology and linguistics but has among its more modest goals the application of methods of corpus linguistics and the digital humanities to relatively little known literary and other texts.

Daron Burrows sets out prolegomena for a modern edition of the Apocalypse en prose. This vernacular rendering, a third of which reflects St. John's Book of Revelation, dates to the mid-thirteenth century and is best known for the rich illustrations that accompany the text in some thirty manuscripts, a graphic component that Burrow shows to be at some odds with the more lackluster and error-ridden texts, two thirds of which comprise a moralizing commentary. Unlike the artistically more successful versified treatment of Revelation, the Apocalypse en prose has been judged by some scholars not to qualify as Anglo-French but to betray a Norman provenance. Burrows's essay addresses this question and traces the history of scholarship on the text, notably the tentative evaluation by Paul Meyer of a single manuscript. Burrows proposes to undertake a full study of the transmission of the text and a critical edition based on the many manuscripts. Key matters here will be similarities and differences among the French and British manuscripts; the question whether iconography and text move in tandem through this process of transmission or follow separate paths; what models shape the apposition of commentary and text; and, the basic question, which manuscript on which to found the edition.

A similar question is at the focus of Richard Ingham's study of John Gower's Le Myrour de l'Omme: is the poem in French, Norman French, or Anglo-French? One critical view is that Gower modeled his language on the French of France, rather than use the insular French idiom, in order to appeal to Britain's francophone aristocracy of the time. In matters of versification, at least, Gower is squarely in the continental camp. Ingham usefully lists the parameters of "anglo-normandicité" before analyzing Gower's phonology and grammar (but not vocabulary). With some few exceptions (respect for final –e, use of the rhyme /ei/ : /oi/, use of qui as subject of the relative pronoun) Gower's work is characterized by Anglo-French forms--in general vocalism, contracted forms of preeposition and article, negation, some instances of the imperfect and conditional tenses. Save in the matter of preferred metrics, Gower was true to his linguistic origins, English and Anglo-French.

This concern for linguistic detail is evident in two other essays as well. Maria Careri and Marcella Lacanale examine the use of "accents et syllabes dans les manuscrits anglo-normands" and Oreste Floquet calls attention to non-standard first person verb forms in Anglo-French as exemplified by jo vienc, je vinc, je erc. The first essay concludes from the analysis of a large number of texts that, in the event of juxtaposed vowels, accents served as signals that two distinct vowels were meant in order to facilitate reading aloud in an agreeable and easily understood manner. The authors note that the practice disappeared after about 1215 and see it as a product of widespread bilingualism. Such syllable marking would have been intended to offset speech habits transferred from English with its stressed syllables, or so the authors propose. In the other essay, Floquet plots the phenomenon of substitution or regional retention of present, preterite, and future verb forms ending in -c, -g and -k. These are northern, western, and Anglo-French forms, most commonly met in twelfth and thirteenth texts, with a trend of -c yielding to -g, and then -g to -k. These occlusive endings are not to be seen as morphological markers of person, number, or tense but are part of the lexical root. The author's tentative explanation of these aberrant forms is the effect of the velarization of the preceding nasal consonant.

Two further essays are devoted to literary matters. Gioia Paradisi examines the transmission of the Folies Tristan to Britain, noting that these were the first Tristan romances in Anglo-French. A still debated question is of the mono- or poly-genesis of the texts represented by the manuscripts of Oxford and Bern. Paradisi's careful comparison of the texts, in particular their conclusions, leads to her judgment in favor of a single lost sources for the two recensions. But the Folies have also been subject to the influences of the longer works by Béroul and Thomas, even on the level of the phrasing of individual verses. Annalisa Landolfi examines the intellectual formation of Elizabeth Tudor (Elizabeth I), the detail of which suggests the courtly background that may have produced another accomplished woman of letters, Marie de France. In particular, it is the dedications that reveal the quality of the two women's education, seen most evidently in their translations from Latin, while always (perhaps slyly) deferring to male patrons or dedicatees. The modest author topos can be employed to many ends, self-promotion included. Lightly encoded, the dedications are revealed also to provide keys to understanding the objectives of both the morally liberating authorship and the completed edifying works. Here the dedicatee might enjoy one reading, a general public another. Landolfi writes of "polysémie contextuelle" (113). Richly decorated gift copies of personal anthologies are a rewarding topic for further study.

The contribution of the late David Trotter provides the best contextualization in the volume of the renewal of Anglo-French studies. From his vantage point as editor of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary and its electronic counterpart (ANDi), he summarizes lexicographical work on a corpus three times that at the base of the original AND. The present essay is a series of single word studies intended to illustrate how well known texts may provide fresh insights into lexis, point out methodological problems and procedures, and direct study toward undervalued, non-literary manuscript resources, including bilingual texts (Anglo-French and Latin, or Middle English, even Hebrew and French).

An essay that well illustrates Trotter's contention that we now have the means to look, indeed, must look into the nooks and crannies of the Anglo-French textual world is Gabriele Giannini's study of "guides de pèlerinage" intended for visitors to the Holy Land. These are not travel guides on the order of Adomnán's De locis sanctis but rather snippets of text that found their way into Anglo-French manuscripts, something on the order of page-fillers. The manuscript context for such preserved texts is generally historiographical or encyclopedic. The thirteenth century in particular saw many guides in Latin and French that divided the Holy Land into four tours, starting out from the port of Acre. A number of versions of the basic guide originated in the Latin East, although much subsequent redactional work occurred in western Europe. The landmarks and sites named in the guides are intended to facilitate the logistics of the pilgrimage, plan the itineraries of individual days as it were. Towns, villages, castles, churches, and battle sites are named and traveling distances stated, reflective of detailed local knowledge. The ecclesiastical divisions of the Church in the east are often given, so that the pilgrim knows in whose jurisdiction she is traveling. But all this information pertains to the recent history of the Near East, the crusade years. What the author of the essay fails to note is how little of biblical history and Christian belief is reflected in the guides. Mary Magdalene may be mentioned but the sites of Jesus' passion are not, only the route to Jerusalem. Rather, we learn of the Knights Hospitallers' financial interest in salt works north of 'Atlit (Château-Pèlerin) and of the need to beware of Bedouin robbers. This puts the texts squarely in Trotter's category of Fachprosa and there is little of the devotional, otherwise so evident in Anglo-French letters. Despite the reworking in Britain, the authorial voice still distinguishes between deça mer and outremer, as experienced from the Holy Land, thus reversing the conventional semantic charge of these deicitc terms. While the plight of the constrained communities of the Latin East is evident, these texts are no call to a fresh crusade, although ideas of a reconquest were still in circulation in the West. These little known texts, however spare, deserve a place in the study of early travel writing and in tracing the roots of Edward Said's Orientalism.

The volume concludes with indices of authors, works, and manuscripts, abstracts in French and English, and author information. This unpretentious collection points the way to several exciting avenues for future research in the revitalized field of Anglo-French studies.

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