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Book Reviews William W. Kibler. A n In tr o d u c tio n t o O ld F r e n c h . New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1984. Pp. xxvii + 366. $15.00 (MLA members $12.00) paper, $27.50 (MLA members $22.00) cloth. This reasonably priced and attractively designed volume, the third in the series Intro­ ductions to Older Languages, gen. ed. W. P. Lehmann, is sponsored and published by the Modern Language Association of America. It is intended “for persons wishing to learn Old French on their own, as well as for those enrolled in one- or two-semester courses in the language at the college or university level.” After having used this work as a textbook in a one-semester course on the history of the French language for beginning graduate students, I am pleased to say that it is, in my opinion, well suited for this purpose. Kibler approaches his subject humanistically, that is to say through a study of literary texts. He presents and annotates an entire work, Marie de France’s Fresne (1,530 octo­ syllabic verses), and lengthy extracts from Guernes de Pont-Sainte-Maxence’s Life of Saint Thomas Becket and the anonymous Aucassin et Nicolette. The selections, which are excel­ lent, illustrate different genres, periods, and dialectics (Francien, Anglo-Norman, and Picard), and individual phrases and passages lead to discussions of phonological, morpho­ logical, and syntactical topics. The method here is reminiscent of that employed in Gerhard Rohlfs’ Vom Vulgärlatein zum Altfranzösischen (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, /e&) where, however, Marie de France’s Bisclavret is the sole annotated text and the coverage far less extensive. The organization is not as haphazard as it appears from this brief description, for Kibler uses common sense when arranging his material and also adds numerous examples from other representative texts in C. W. Aspland’s serviceable anthology, A Medieval French Reader (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979). I devoted about half of each class period to a presentation of philologie topics ordered more conventionally, then spent the rest of the time having the students translate and making a commentary of the material in Kibler. We were thus able to go through the entire book, averaging one chapter per class (there are 23). In most manuals, phonology and morphology predominate, and barely sufficient attention is accorded to syntax. Recent textbooks have tended to do just the opposite. Kibler endeavors to right this balance. I personally would go a bit further in the direction that Kibler has, but instructors will no doubt vary as to the proper mix. As is customary, the term Old French designates the period from about 1100 to about 1300 (Kibler: 1285). Most teachers will probably wish to give more consideration to a few earlier texts, notably the Strasbourg Oaths, Eulalia, and the Life of Saint Alexis. In the bibliography, I would add W. D. Elcock, The Romance Languages, rev. with a New Introduction by John N. Green (London: Faber &Faber, 1975), and substitute Walther von Wartburg’sEvolution et structure de la langue française, 8th ed. (Bern: A. Francke, 1967), for the latter’s more specialized La Fragmentation linguistique de la Romania. This is a book which possesses many fine qualities, chief among which, perhaps, is that it brings Old French down from the clouds. For this Kibler deserves much praise and the gratitude of instructors and students alike. G era rd J. Bra u lt The Pennsylvania State University 122 Spr in g 1987 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
p. 122
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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