Colloquium: Writing History and Lyric in Trilingual England

Friday, April 11, 2008, 3-5:30 p.m.

South Hall 2635

Reception to follow


Ralph Hanna, Professor of Paleography, Fellow of Keble College, Oxford University: “The Matter of Fulk: Romance and History in Fourteenth-Century Shropshire.”

Fouke le Fitz Waryn, an Anglo-Norman prose text of c. 1325-30, is the only surviving full rendition of a narrative retold at least three times, in English and French, during the period c.1260-c.1400.  Most of the text is devoted to Fulk III's quite historical revolt against King John in 1201-3.  But the text has always appeared problematic, since the tale of Fulk's disobedience has acquired a patina of 'romance' materials very far from plausible, let alone historical.  The lecture examines aspects of this presentation, far from limited to this text but ubiquitous in insular historical writing and romance.


Seth Lerer, Avalon Foundation Professor in Humanities, Stanford University: “The English Lyric in a Trilingual World.”

The paper looks at the lyrics of the famous Harley MS collection to explore the ways in which English, French, and Latin interact to to challenge our modern notions of vernacularity and our historical sense of the vernacular short poem. In particular, the paper argues that the study of the English lyric has gone on in a radically de-historicized manner, as most of us read and teach these poems out of anthologies and collections that efface the original manuscript contexts of the works. Restoring these poems to their original contexts helps us understand how English, French, and Latin constituted strata, in effect, of vernacular expression in lyric forms. It also helps us understand the ways in which these poems may be less the personal articulations of an emotive voice and more the literate performances of or ventriloquisms of learned tropes and conventions. Finally, I want to realign the study of the medieval lyric away from the formalist appreciations of the Dronke tradition and towards a method that stresses distinctive histories of language, manuscript production and reception, and genre.

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