- The Life of Saint Eufrosine In Old French Verse, with English Translation ed. by Amy V. Ogden
edited and translated by Amy V. Ogden. MLA Texts and Translations. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2021.
The anonymous poet of the Old French Life of Saint Eufrosine explains that they rewrote the narrative “en romans [. . .] par ce que je vulh qu’ele soit plus oïe” (“in <the vernacular> [. . .] because I want it to be heard by more people”).1 Amy V. Ogden’s new edition of the poem, the first full English translation of the Old French Life, considerably furthers the poet’s goal of making the text accessible to “[t] ot le siecle” (the whole world) (xiv). In so doing, she gives renewed life not only to the saint (who was assigned female at birth but who took the gender-neutral name Esmerades [Emerald] and lived as a monk for thirty-eight years) but also to the poet, who, like the saint, inhabited “an identity that exceeds binary gender categories” (xiii).
The Life is preserved in four manuscripts. This new single-manuscript edition reproduces the oldest witness: manuscript O, also known as Oxford, Bodleian Library, Canonici Miscellaneous MS 74, dated to about 1200. Ogden’s editorial vision for the project was “to provide a sense of the poem as a reader would have found it” when manuscript O was newly copied (xxxix). This aim guides each aspect of the poem’s presentation. Previously the only published edition of the Old French text was Raymond T. Hill’s 1919 critical edition, which regularized the poem into ten-line stanzas.2 In contrast, Ogden’s edition reproduces manuscript O’s stanza-laisses, which vary in length from nine to forty lines (laisses are monoassonanced or monorhymed stanzas of varied lengths; “stanza-laisses”–Ogden’s term (xxii)–are typically, though not always, of the same length). Changes to the text are minimal, granting the reader direct access to the language of the oldest manuscript witness. Emendations based on the other three manuscripts appear only where the language of manuscript O would otherwise be incomprehensible.
Ogden’s edition also includes some subtle and evocative visual details: for instance, a decorative font to indicate the placement of larger, sometimes decorated initials; and an interstitial page separating the front matter from the text, on which is written simply “De sainte Eufroysine” (About Saint Eufrosine), reproducing the heading that a later reader added to the manuscript. The first folio of the text is reproduced as [End Page 337] the edition’s frontispiece, and folio transitions are marked alongside the text. These editorial choices give readers a sense of closeness to the manuscript, reminding us both of the mobility and dynamism of the Life and of the specificity of this particular version. The edition also includes a detailed introduction, a list of selected editions and translations of other versions of the life of Saint Euphrosyne, and a bibliography for further reading about the Euphrosyne narratives. (In her commentary, Ogden maintains a distinction between Euphrosyne “the saint as a figure present in many traditions” and Eufrosine “the saint as depicted in the Old French poem” [xviii]). There are also notes on the text and the translation, a list of works cited, and a short glossary featuring common words that take on a specific meaning in the Life and unusual or otherwise unattested words. Terms and phrases discussed in the glossary are marked with stars in the edition.
In addition to its value as a scholarly resource, this versatile edition is designed for use as an upper-division teaching text. The edition, the translation, the introduction, and the notes have been shaped by Ogden’s extensive experience in teaching the poem and by her students’ responses, questions, and comments. The clear and comprehensive introduction is pitched to advanced undergraduates, although its content will be of use to scholars at all stages. Ogden discusses the multiple literary traditions on which the Life draws and to which it belongs (hagiography, romance, epic) as well as the theological context of key themes. The variety of...