The French Tradition and the Literature of Medieval England
Published: December 1994© 1994
604 Pages, 5.98 x 9.00 x 1.70 in
The French presence in English literary history in the centuries following the Conquest has to some extent been glossed over or treated as an interlude. During this period, roughly 1100-1420, French, like Latin, was the language of the educated; in the courts of England, and for nobles, clerics, and the rising commercial elements, communication was multilingual.
In his ground-breaking study, William Calin explores indepth this era of medieval English literature and culture in relation to its distinctly French influences and contemporaries. He examines the Anglo-Norman contribution to medieval literature, concentrating on romance and hagiography; the great continental French texts, such as Prose Lancelot and the Romance of the Rose, which had a dominant role in shaping literature in English; and the English response to the French cultural world - the two 'modes' in English where the French presence was most significant: court poetry (Chaucer, Gower, Hoccleve) and Middle English romance.
This book is grounded in French sources both well-known and relatively obscure. Translations of the Old French make The French Tradition and the Literature of Medieval England accessible to scholars and students of Medieval English, comparatists, and historians, as well as those proficient in French. Calin develops a synthesis of medieval French and English literature that will be especially useful for classroom study.
'From Anglo-Norman to continental French and back into English, Calin's journey follows the development of a linguistic and cultural "continuum," as he rightly insists it is. Along the way he even-handedly disposes of some familiar critical mythologies – those of "Whig literary history," and those created by Old French scholars under the spell of Romantic nationalism – in order to illuminate a body of literature which has only recently entered the medievalist canon.'Duncan Robertson, French Forum
'This large book houses a large claim: that the interaction of culture transcends the question-begging limitations of periodization and the nation-state to create a literary unity which is recognizable beyond (but also through) linguistic difference.'Ruth Morse, Journal of European Studies
'William Calin has succeeded in this well-written, extensively documented, and amazingly erudite study.'R. Barton Palmer, Studies in the Age of Chaucer
'In addition to making a case for the value of some often neglected French texts, the greatest contribution of this book is in reminding us again of the thematic and stylistic similarities between the literatures of France and England during the late Middle Ages.'C. David Benson, Review of English Studies
'The French Tradition is a tour de force. Calin ranges over two literatures and two cultures with the ease and sophistication he claims for Chaucer; his own book, itself a collection of stories and an exercise in intertextuality, is a mise en abyme of the body of work he explicates so brilliantly.'Mary-Jo Arn, Modern Language Review