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Chapter 6 - French

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 August 2022

Mark Chinca
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Christopher Young
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

This chapter traces three stages in the formation of a French literary tradition that take place in the early Middle Ages. The first is the awareness that a vernacular language distinct from spoken Latin exists (which would of course pertain to all Romance languages); the second, the appearance of this language in written form; the third, the establishment of a solidified written tradition of literary works, both devotional and secular, translations of Latin works as well as transcriptions of hitherto orally transmitted poetic works. The first stage occurs early in the ninth century with the first documented acknowledgments of a Romance vernacular distinct from Latin in Gaul. A mere handful of written texts of modest size in the vernacular have survived from the following three centuries, predominantly in the margins of Latin manuscripts. Autonomous secular texts in Old French start appearing in the early twelfth century, most notably in England, within a couple of generations of the Norman Conquest. The balance of the chapter deals with the insular social dynamic of the twelfth century in England that differentiated its interests from those on the Continent, where innovations in courtly love literature thrived, whereas they were ultimately sidelined in England.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • French
  • Edited by Mark Chinca, University of Cambridge, Christopher Young, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Literary Beginnings in the European Middle Ages
  • Online publication: 11 August 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108776912.007
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  • French
  • Edited by Mark Chinca, University of Cambridge, Christopher Young, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Literary Beginnings in the European Middle Ages
  • Online publication: 11 August 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108776912.007
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • French
  • Edited by Mark Chinca, University of Cambridge, Christopher Young, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Literary Beginnings in the European Middle Ages
  • Online publication: 11 August 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108776912.007
Available formats
×