Anglo-Norman literature


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Anglo-Norman literature,

body of literature written in England, in the French dialect known as Anglo-Norman, from c.1100 to c.1250. Initiated at the court of Henry I, it was supported by the wealthy, French-speaking aristocracy who controlled England after the Norman conquest. The dominant literary forms were histories, sacred and secular biographies, and homilies; romance and fiction were relatively scarce. Perhaps the most important historian was Geoffrey Gaimer, whose two-part history of England, Histoire des Bretons and Estorie des Engles, was written in verse. Philippe of Thaün, the earliest known Anglo-Norman poet, was noted for the moral allegory the Bestiaire. Of secular works, Thomas's Tristan (c.1170) is notable both artistically and as an early source for the Tristram and Isolde legend.

Bibliography

See M. D. Legge, Anglo-Norman Literature and Its Background (1963).

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An anonymous author in England wrote it during the first half of the 13th century, he says, and though the sole extant copy is incomplete, it remains one of the longest hagiographic narratives in Anglo-Norman literature. He points out that though students of Pseudo-Clementine literature have paid little attention to the poem, its first 14,500 lines represent probably the most complete and faithful pre-modern translation of two texts by Clement I, pope of Rome (88-99 CE), the Recognitiones and the Epistula Clementis ad Iacobum of Rufinus of Aquileia.
Boulton, Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts, ANTS o.p.s.
This latest volume, translated by the co-editor of Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1999), draws on the numerous religious texts which make up the bulk (well more than half, we are told) of Anglo-Norman writing.
Glynn Hesketh' sedition of John of Howden' Rossignos fills a significant gap in Anglo-Norman literature, and completes our knowledge of an important Anglo-Latin writer of the thirteenth century.
Legge first called attention to the resemblance of the hoaxed husband episode to that in Cliges (Anglo-Norman Literature and its Background [Oxford: Clarendon, 1963; reprint, 1971], 259-61).
All this suggests that the 'lay establishment specialising in the copying and illustration of secular Anglo-Norman literature in the second quarter of the thirteenth century' described by David Ross was not that uncommon.
After a brief introduction that stresses the strong and subtle impact of French culture on England, the subject of the first part is Anglo-Norman literature, whose distinctive gift to both English and world writing, Calin argues, is narrative.
Leyser argues that the survival of English was largely due to the influence of the native wives of the Norman incomers, and points out the important role that noblewomen played as patrons of both English and Anglo-Norman literature. Queenship also underwent a change, with later medieval queens playing an important role as intercessors, a role which allowed them to temper the arbitrary power of kinship without ever challenging it.
There is no complete edition of the Miroir, although the Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts compiled by Ruth Dean and Maureen Boulton lists a number of partial editions, redactions, and transcriptions.
Dean and Boulton's Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts, which appeared in 1999, helped tame the jungle of Anglo-Norman texts and clear the way for more research in the area, while Jocelyn Wogan-Browne's 2001 monograph Saints' Lives and Women's Literary Culture showed the importance of Anglo-Norman hagiography in the context of medieval texts written by and for women.
It is a truly remarkable achievement, and must now be considered an indispensable tool for any scholar concerned with Anglo-Norman literature of indeed with Old French literature in general.
As Tony Hunt has recently observed, "about half of the surviving twelfth-century manuscripts containing French come from English Benedictine houses and almost half of these are Psalters." (3) Among these texts are two of the very oldest extant works of Anglo-Norman literature: the 'Cambridge Psalter' (ca.