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Reviewed by:
  • The French of Medieval England: Essays in Honour of Jocelyn Wogan-Browne eds. by Thelma Fenster and Carolyn P. Collette
  • Edward Mills
The French of Medieval England: Essays in Honour of Jocelyn Wogan-Browne. Edited by Thelma Fenster and Carolyn P. Collette. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017. xvii + 340 pp.

Robert W. Hanning is justified in highlighting, in his Afterword, the continuities that exist between this volume and 2009's Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England, c.1100–c.1500, ed. by Jocelyn Wogan-Browne and others (Woodbridge: York Medieval Press). Much like the earlier volume, the sixteen essays within this new edited collection offer further evidence for the precocity, pervasiveness, and persistence of the French language in medieval Britain. This volume differs from its precursor, however, in that its contributions are not subdivided into sections by field or by period. Instead, the essays are presented in a loosely chronological fashion, with the reader encouraged—occasionally directly in footnotes—to consider the connections between them. These connections are made most explicit in the Introduction, which presents the work of the contributors as being to 'recover, describe or analyse the presence and integral function of various kinds of French languages in medieval British […] culture' (p. 9). The use of the term 'French languages' in the plural is significant, reflecting an unwillingness to constrain French to the literary sphere, or to secular centres of power. Valuable chapters by Maryanne Kowaleski and W. Mark Ormrod, for instance, take as their focus Continental French speakers in Devon and Salisbury, while Richard Ingham and Serge Lusignan draw on works of lay religious instruction and Chancery documents to illustrate the socio-linguistic and geographical spread of French in the late thirteenth century. Delbert Russell's chapter on the work of Paul Meyer, meanwhile, makes deft use of Meyer's own editorial notes to illustrate his 'restraint and balance' when faced with contemporary dismissal of Anglo-Norman. Among those chapters that employ more literary source material, there is a distinct focus on questions of multilingualism and the relationship of French to the other languages of medieval England: Thomas O'Donnell and Emma Campbell both consider the relationship of French to Latin in the works of Philippe de Thaon, each arguing that the evidence works to 'trouble straightforward linguistic hierarchies' (p. 43), while Nicholas Watson highlights the debt owed by William Langland's Piers Plowman to earlier French 'verse Bible' traditions (p. 144). Monika Otter, in a chapter pleasingly enhanced by the provision of an online audio recording, explores the use of Latin, French, and English in the Prisoner's Lament, presenting the close relationship between vernaculars as evidence for 'easy code-switching' (p. 70). Taken together, the contributions succeed, through their divergent source material and modes of analysis, in paying due tribute to the work of Jocelyn Wogan-Browne. Only one minor editorial error in the collection is worthy of note: the illustration of the 'children in the oven' episode from Egerton MS 2781, while well positioned to support Thelma Fenster's argument regarding the audience of the Neville of Hornby hours, is unfortunately mislabelled in both the caption and the table of contents as 'f.188v' rather than 'f.88v'. This does not, however, diminish the usefulness of the collection overall, which deserves a place alongside its predecessor as an indispensable resource for the study of both the 'French of England' and the culture of medieval Britain more broadly. [End Page 426]

Edward Mills
University of Exeter
...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1468-2931
Print ISSN
0016-1128
Pages
p. 426
Launched on MUSE
2018-08-15
Open Access
No
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