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TVOF Report Summary

Project ID: 670726
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TVOF (The values of French language and literature in the European Middle Ages)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The Values of French examines the nature and value of the use of French in Europe during a crucial period, 1100-1450, less in terms of its cultural prestige (the traditional focus of scholarship) than of its role as a supralocal, transnational language, particularly in Western Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. The project fosters collaboration between, and cuts across, different intellectual and national scholarly traditions, drawing on expertise in codicology, critical theory, linguistics, literature, and philology; it involves scholars from a range of European countries and North America, entailing empirical research around a complex and widely disseminated textual tradition vital to medieval understandings of European history and identity, L’Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César. This case study grounds and stimulates broader speculative reflection on two questions concerning linguistic identity. What is the relation historically between language and identity in Europe? How are cognate languages demarcated from each other? Indeed, its final aim, through and beyond its consideration of French as a lingua franca, is to interrogate that language’s role in the emergence of a European identity in the Middle Ages.

The projects specific objectives are as follows:

1. To develop a better understanding of the values of the use of French as a transnational and supralocal language in the Middle Ages (1100-1450).
2. To investigate the role that French played in the emergence of a European, transnational and supralocal identity (as opposed to a specific French national identity) at a crucial point in history (i.e. 1100-1450).
3. To conduct empirical research on a sizeable body of under-researched material that is central to the writing of European history in the Middle Ages (the Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César), in order to make this material available digitally.
4. To engage in more speculative, theoretical, and genuinely interdisciplinary enquiry about the contours of individual languages and linguistic definition, using medieval French as a case study.
5. To engage in more speculative, theoretical, and genuinely interdisciplinary enquiry about the nature of the ‘literary’ and its relation to the conception and practice of historical writing.
6. To promote significant (and largely unprecedented) interdisciplinary and international collaboration between philology, literary studies and linguistics.

There are therefore 4 interlocking seams in the project, which may be characterised as follows:

1. Editorial
2. Linguistic
3. History vs literature
4. Language and identity

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

TVOF runs an international seminar in London which meets three times a year and includes members from 7 different countries working in the fields of literary studies, philology and linguistics. The seminar gives the team feedback on its work and acts as an Advisory Board for the project. The seminar has now met three times and is scheduled to meet again in March, June and December 2017. 18 months into the project, each of the seams is on track to deliver its projected outcomes to schedule:

1. Editorial: the first segment of our editions is already available on line; the next segment will be published in June/July
2. Linguistic: the protocol for linguistic analysis is fully elaborated and data gathering well under way. The focus will be on negation, subordination, co-ordination and syntax more generally, rather than phonology, scripta or morphology (the focus of more traditional philological studies). Apart from publications outlining the results of our analysis, the data will be integrated with our digital editions, enabling dynamic linguistic searches on MS material.
3. History vs literature: the book to be written by one of our Research Associates is planned, the research is well under way and will be discussed at our June 2017 seminar.
4. Language and identity: preliminary ideas have been presented in the form of papers and lectures. The research will be discussed at our November 2017 seminar.

The project team seeks to disseminate its findings outside the forum of the project seminar and to engagement with the broader scholarly community and indeed the general public. It publishes a blog regularly (15 posts so far), which is publicised through twitter and Facebook. Several of our blogs have been shared or retweeted and we believe we already have a ‘reach’ of 300+ with a regular readership of around 50. As recorded on the dissemination page of the ERC Portal, members of the project have given 10 conference papers and 6 invited lectures in the first 18 months of the project in 8 different countries. So far only one article directly generated by the project is in print, but several more are forthcoming and as noted, the first segment of one of our editions has just been published online.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The Values of French has generated exciting collaborations and partnerships in its first 18 months. Notably:

1) The inclusion of colleagues from linguistics in the project seminar has generated precisely the kind of interdisciplinary dialogue we sought to create and has impacted upon our methodology most significantly in two ways: first in the decision to publish semi-diplomatic editions alongside interpretive editions, which will allow linguists to make dynamic searches on medieval texts that have not been mediated by modern assumptions about syntax, word division etc.; secondly, in the decision to focus on syntax and pragmatics in our linguistic analysis rather than phonology, scripta or morphology (the focus of more traditional philological studies). Both these developments are innovative and moving beyond the state of the art.

2) We are collaborating closely with Stephen Dörr (a member of the project seminar) and Marcus Husar of the Dictionnaire étymologique de l’ancien français based in Heidelberg ( to produce a complete lemmatization of the Histoire ancienne and to integrate our findings digitally into the DEAF’s lexical database, which in turn will be the basis for our own on-line glossary. The lemmatisation will be freely accessible on-line and King’s Digilab is working on the means to make this possible. This level of integration of digital resources has not been attempted before in the field.

3) We are collaborating with the British Library on the organisation of an international conference in London in June 2019 on French-language manuscripts from the Eastern Mediterranean. The project team will curate two exhibition cases relating to this theme in the Library’s Treasures exhibition space which will be on display for 6 months and coinciding with the conference. There will also be a series of guest blogs for the British Library manuscripts blog and possibly a radio programme. Finally, we have approached the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris to see if they would also be interested in collaborating on the organisation of this conference.
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