The twelfth-century La vie d’Edouard le Confesseur written in Anglo-Norman verse by a Nun of Barking Abbey is an important hagiographical work that has attracted growing scholarly attention in recent years.  Jane Bliss here presents the first translation of La vie into modern English. Scholarly interest in this text has largely focused on its significance as the work of a female author from one of the most influential and important abbeys in post-conquest England. Bliss’s translation should serve to make this Life–one of a very small number of Anglo-Norman hagiographies composed by a woman–available to a wider audience, including students, who have no Old French. Although clearly a work of hagiography, La vie also sheds valuable light on Edward’s times and on the Nun’s own twelfth-century context. Bliss contends that this version of Edward’s life « can claim to be historical biography » (4). In contrast, in his standard work on Edward, Frank Barlow writes that « the hagiographical tradition [derived from Osbert of Clare via Aelred of Rievaulx] can be disregarded as an historical source for Edward’s earthly career. »  One of Bliss’s main arguments in presenting this translation of La vie is that this work develops that hagiographical tradition in new, independent, and even historically illuminating ways.
Zori, Davide and Jesse Byock. Viking Archaeology in Iceland: Mosfell Archaeological Project. Cursor Mundi, 20. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014. Pp. xxvi, 256. $156.00 (paperback). 9782503544007 (paperback).
Reviewed by: Neil Price (University of Uppsala)
In The Medieval Review : https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2022/20057/15.06.08.html?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
This book represents the full publication of a remarkable archaeological excavation project, conducted over multiple seasons in the Mosfell Valley and its central church and farm at Hrísbrú, a spectacular landscape environment not far from Reykjavík in south-western Iceland. Mosfell is well-known from the medieval saga literature, Iceland’s great national literary tradition, and is described in the anonymous saga of Egill Skalla-Grímsson as the location of the hero’s home. Egill is one of the most spectacular figures of the Viking period, even by the standards of a dramatic age, a quintessential warrior-poet, sorcerer and worshipper of the war-god Odin. While the veracity of the saga has long been open to question, the print-the-Legend story has a power all its own. Many Icelanders today are blood relatives of the man himself, and it is fair to say that any archaeological investigation of the reality behind the myth is a subject of national concern in this North Atlantic country of just over 300,000 people.
The Norman Campaigns in the Balkans, 1081-1108. Warfare in History. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2014. Pp. xii, 262. £60.0/$99.00 (hardback). ISBN: 9781843839217 (hardback).
Reviewed by G. A. Loud, University of Leeds
Reviewed in The Medieval Review
At first sight the title of this book is something of a misnomer, in that only a third of the text is actually devoted to the campaigns waged in the Balkans against the Byzantine Empire by Robert Guiscard, the Norman Duke of Apulia, and his son Bohemond. This reflects the relative paucity of evidence concerning these undoubtedly dramatic events, by far the most detailed account of which comes in the Alexiad of Anna Komnena, written at least sixty years after the earlier expedition of Guiscard, and almost forty years after that of his son in 1107-8. To place these campaigns in context—or, the uncharitable might suggest, to pad out this study, and the thesis on which it is based, to book-length–the first two-thirds of the volume comprise a lengthy introduction to the military background, both in eleventh-century Normandy and southern Italy, and in Byzantium. These introductory chapters do indeed paint with a very broad brush. To what extent a summary discussion of castle-building in Anglo-Norman England, or a history of the Byzantine theme system going back to Heraclius, really enhances our understanding of the conflict between Guiscard and Alexios Komnenos is a moot point. At the same time, the concentration on warfare and tactics means that the political and social background to these campaigns in the Balkans is very hastily sketched. In other words, this book tends to fall between two stools, being neither a full study of warfare and military affairs in Norman Italy–still much needed–or in Byzantium–rather less so in the light of a number of excellent modern works–nor a fully-rounded discussion of the conflict between the Normans of Apulia and Byzantium.
Traduction en Français Moderne, introduction, notes par Michèle Guéret-Laferté
Honoré Champion, 2015, ISBN 978-2-7453-2807-6
En 1030, le duc de Naples Serge IV donne au Normand Rainolf le territoire d’Aversa en échange de son aide militaire pour repousser les attaques de ses voisins. Un demi-siècle plus tard, les Normands ont conquis toute l’Italie méridionale et une grande partie de la Sicile, chassant les anciens maîtres de ces régions : les Lombards, les Grecs byzantins et les Arabes. C’est l’étonnante histoire de cette conquête que rédige vers 1080 Aimé, moine du Mont-Cassin. L’abbaye bénédictine connaît alors son « âge d’or », aussi bien dans le domaine culturel qu’aux niveaux économique et politique. Grâce à l’entremise de son abbé Didier (1058-1087), dédicataire de l’ouvrage, elle a su nouer des relations étroites avec les chefs normands Richard de Capoue et Robert Guiscard, les deux héros de l’Historia Normannorum. L’original latin écrit par Aimé s’est perdu, mais une traduction en français, l’Ystoire de li Normant (CFMA, n° 166), faite dans les années 1340 dans le milieu des Angevins de Naples, a permis de conserver ce texte, d’une importance majeure par son contenu historique, mais aussi par le type d’écriture de l’histoire qu’il met en oeuvre, au moment clé où la réforme dite grégorienne redéfinit les rapports entre les laïcs et les clercs.
Michèle Guéret-Laferté est professeur de littérature médiévale à l’Université de Rouen. Spécialiste des récits de voyage en Orient (XIIIe-XVe siècles), elle s’intéresse aussi à l’historiographie normande.
Biddlecombe, Steven, ed.
The Historia Ierosolimitana of Baldric of Bourgueil. Woodbridge
Boydell Press, 2014. pp. cvii, 153. $99.00. ISBN: 978-184-3839-019.
Reviewed by Jay Rubenstein, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Reviewed in The Medieval Review
Baldric of Bourgueil is one of three monastic writers–along with Guibert of Nogent and Robert the Monk–who famously (among crusade historians, at least) set themselves the task of rewriting the anonymous, eyewitness narrative of the First Crusade, the Gesta Francorum. Not as well known among modern historians as Guibert (whose chronicle was published in a new edition by R. B. C. Huygens in 1996) and not as popular among medieval readers as Robert (whose text survives in over eighty manuscripts and was recently edited by Marcus Bull and Damien Kempf), Baldric’s book has tended to be–if not overlooked, then at least–underappreciated in scholarly circles, which is unfortunate. Among twelfth-century writers about the crusade, Baldric was easily the most sophisticated. Discerning medieval readers shared this judgment, too. Both Orderic Vitalis and Vincent of Beauvais, for example, used Baldric’s Historia Ierosolimitana as the basis for their own work on the crusade. Unlike any of his contemporaries’ efforts, we can say of Baldric’s Historia that it is a true work of literature.
Aude Painchault, Les châteaux normands dans l’œuvre d’Orderic Vital et leurs traces archéologiques
Compte rendu de la soutenance de thèse par Micaël Allainguillaume, Adrien Dubois et Jean-Baptiste Vincent
Le mardi 13 janvier 2015, à l’Université de Rouen, Aude Painchault a soutenu sa thèse de doctorat intitulée « Les châteaux normands dans l’œuvre d’Orderic Vital et leurs traces archéologiques », devant un jury composé de Gérard Giuliato, professeur d’histoire et d’archéologie médiévale, université de Lorraine, président du jury ; David Bates, professeur d’histoire médiévale, East Anglia University, rapporteur ; Philippe Racinet, professeur d’histoire et d’archéologie médiévale, université de Picardie, Jules Verne, rapporteur ; Véronique Gazeau, professeur d’histoire médiévale, université de Caen Basse-Normandie et Anne-Marie Flambard Héricher, professeur émérite d’histoire et d’archéologie médiévale, université de Rouen, directrice de la thèse.
Friðriksdóttir Jóhanna Katrín, Women in Old Norse literature: bodies, words, and power, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, XIV-192 p. ISBN: 978-0-230-12042-6
Compte rendu par/Review by : Craig R. Davis
Date : 14 Feb 2014
The primary focus of feminist literary criticism over the past few decades has been on the question of « agency, » that is, the autonomy or control authors depict fictional women as having over their own bodies, as well as the power of these characters to influence domestic or political affairs through speech and action. The medieval tradition of Old Norse poetry and prose, preserved mainly in Icelandic manuscripts, provides a full range of variously empowered female figures relevant to such study: young girls and grown women, housewives and queens, « good girls » and pioneer matriarchs, witches and « bitches »–plus goddesses, norns, sybils, valkyries, giantesses, she-beasts, shape-shifters, even manly women and womanly men, cross-dressers and transgendered. In the terms popularized by Judith Butler in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), the « performance » of sexual identity is what characters do in Old Norse-Icelandic literature and very few of them are portrayed as oblivious to the gendered implications of their words and deeds. Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir’s contribution in this book is to demonstrate the diversity and nuance of the expression of sexual identity in Icelandic secular prose narratives and the multiplicity of situations in which it is brought to bear.
Chameroy Jérémie, Guihard Pierre-Marie (dir.), Circulations monétaires et réseaux d’échanges en Normandie et dans le Nord-Ouest européen (Antiquité-Moyen Âge), Turnhout, Brepols (Tables rondes du CRAHM, vol. 8), 2012, 294 p. ISBN: 978-2-84133-420-9
Compte rendu par/Review by : Nils Bock
Date : 20 Mar 2014
Studien zum Münzverkehr müssen sich mit Fragen von Mengen, Bewegungen und der Zeit einer bestimmten Metallwährung auseinandersetzen: drei Parameter von hoher Komplexität. Hier bieten Datenbanksysteme die Möglichkeit, Daten zu erfassen, zu sammeln und darzustellen. Die in zwei Beiträgen präsente Datenbank »Nummus« in ihren Anwendungsmöglichkeiten vorzustellen, war vermutlich ein Grund, die dem vorliegenden Sammelband zugrundeliegende Table ronde am Centre Michel de Boüard (CRAHAM) der Universität Caen Basse-Normandie abzuhalten. Im Band versammelt sind Beiträge zur Normandie, den Britischen Inseln und Skandinavien, unter denen sich drei Artikel der vorrömischen Epoche, vier der römischen Antike und fünf dem Mittelalter widmen.
Karlsen Espen (éd.), Latin manuscripts of medieval Norway: studies in memory of Lilli Gjerløw, Oslo, Novus Press, 2013, 424 p. ISBN: 978-82-7099-722-0
Compte rendu par/Review by : Jenny Jochens
Date : 10 Mar 2014
This large and beautiful book takes an important step into a new discipline: the study of fragments of medieval manuscripts. Available in all Scandinavian countries, this resource is particularly abundant in Norway. The volume is also a festschrift to honor Lilli Gjerløw, the outstanding pioneer in this field who died at the age of 88 in 1998 and to whom I shall return. It is well know that England played a large role in the Christianization of Norway. Arriving in the ninth century, English missionaries succeeded in converting numerous numbers of the population and establishing churches. Missionaries and monks celebrated services in Latin using the liturgy they knew from home and requiring books that were brought from England. Eventually Norwegians themselves learned to procure manuscripts from abroad and to employ scribes who were taught by English professionals established in the country. Like other medieval countries, Norway in this way came to possess sizeable libraries attached to churches and monasteries that contained enduring parchment manuscripts written mainly in Latin but later also in Old Norse. In the beginning these books contained the liturgy required in the services, so that changes adopted by the international church can be followed in their texts. As Christianity became firmly established, Norwegians progressed into Patristic writings as well as the classic medieval authors whose texts they also acquired or copied.
Treharne Elaine, Living through conquest: the politics of early English, 1020-1220, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012, X-218 p. ISBN: 978-0-19-958526-7
Compte rendu par/Review by : Christopher A. Jones
Date : 6 Feb 2014
The fortunes of English between the later eleventh and early thirteenth centuries have enjoyed increased attention in recent decades, and no one has done more to energize this important area of research than Elaine Treharne. Many scholars of Old and earlier Middle English will be aware of her and others’ pioneering work on the topic, but its rewards and future promise still remain too little appreciated. The reason, in part, is that studies of English through the long twelfth century have often been highly specialized, with emphasis on linguistic and codicological detail. But other barriers, Treharne asserts, are institutional. The record of « late » and « transitional » Old English consists largely (but by no means exclusively) of anonymous adaptations of earlier homiletic prose by the likes of Aelfric and Archbishop Wulfstan, and these materials, usually perceived as derivative, tend to fall through the cracks of modern scholarship and curricula. Literary histories have therefore often dismissed as unoriginal and backward-looking a substantial body of English vernacular writing extant from the Norman Conquest down to the reigns of Henry II and his sons.
Hicks Leonie V., Brenner Elma (dir.), Society and culture in medieval Rouen, 911-1300, Turnhout, Brepols (Studies in the Early Middle Ages, vol. 39), 2013, 400 p. ISBN: 978-2-503-53665-1
Compte rendu par/Review by : Karen Schousboe
Date : Feb 2014
To a large extent the city of Rouen represents an unknown quantity. Originally it was founded by an ancient tribe, the Veliocasses, and used to control the lower Seine Valley and the estuary. They called it Ratumacos. Later it was renamed by the Romans as Rotomagus. It still holds the foundations of an amphitheatre and Roman baths. In the 5th century it became the seat of a bishopric and later – in Merovingian Gall – it functioned as capital of Neustria. However, Vikings repeatedly sacked the city in the late 9th century; in the aftermath they finally took over and turned it into their main capital in what later became the Duchy of Normandy. Finally it reached its apogee in the 11th to 13th century, during which period the inner city and its suburbs exploded while its political and economic significance was unparalleled (it even out-distanced Paris).
Compte rendu par/Review by : Benjamin Pohl
Date : 13 Mar 2014
This volume of collected essays explores the social and cultural history of the city of Rouen between the ‘foundation’ of Normandy under Rollo in 911 and the end of the 13th century. As David Bates points out in the book’s preface, Rouen so far has not received the attention which scholars have readily paid to other great cities throughout the Anglo-Norman World – including several other cities in Normandy, such as Caen, Bayeux and Lisieux. Undoubtedly, therefore, the present volume represents a welcome addition to the already existing range of compendiums devoted to important places and institutions in medieval Europe, as it caters to a long-standing desideratum within contemporary Anglo-Norman scholarship.
Compte rendu par/Review by : David S. Spear
Date : 27 Oct 2014
Rouen was, and remains, the largest city in Normandy. Until about 1200 it was larger than Paris. What weakened Rouen was, first, the foundation of Caen, and second, the rise of Paris. Caen had been founded by William the Conqueror as a new outpost of his ducal power in central Normandy (Rouen, by contrast, was too far east in the duchy). Caen never surpassed Rouen in terms of population, but it had a large ducal castle and two very prestigious ducal abbeys (St.-Etienne for men, and La Trinité for women). In the later Middle Ages Normandy’s first university was in Caen, not Rouen. The rise of Paris vis-à-vis Rouen came about when King John lost the province of Normandy to the King of France in 1204. After that date, Philip Augustus lavished numerous resources on urban renewal in Paris, and seems to have actively thwarted further growth in Rouen. Later in the Middle Ages, Rouen experienced periods of effervescence, but was condemned to be always in the shadow of Paris.
Bates David, Liddiard Robert (dir.), East Anglia and its North Sea world in the Middle Ages, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2013, XIV-349 p. ISBN: 9781843838463
Compte rendu par/Review by : Richard C. Hoffmann
Date : 17 Apr 2014
The common intent of this collection’s seventeen essays may seem straightforward enough: how did the medieval regional community of East Anglia, the easternmost projection of England, engage with its maritime frontiers? Or is it all that clear? A potentially fecund ambiguity surfaces when the preface announces that « this book sets out to discuss medieval East Anglia » (xiii), while co-editor Robert Liddiard’s introduction claims that « this collection… takes the North Sea during the Middle Ages as its central theme… » (3) So, land or sea? Just two paragraphs in Liddiard’s fifteen pages do actually discuss the sea; all else is devoted to medieval human connections across it. This is, to be sure, a fair representation of the book itself, where « the North Sea world » is no marine environment but a barren stage where only human actors and artifacts move.
Pons-Sanz Sara Maria, The lexical effects of Anglo-Scandinavian linguistic contact on Old English, Turnhout, Brepols (Studies in the Early Middle Ages, vol. 1), 2013, XV-589 p. ISBN: 978-2-503-53471-8
Compte rendu par/Review by : Roberta Frank
Date : 2 May 2014
This study looks with exquisite care at the more than three hundred terms attested during the Anglo-Saxon period for which Norse derivation has been claimed. It analyzes their chronological and dialectal distribution (to the extent that this is possible), and probes the semantic and stylistic relationships between these terms and their native equivalents. Pons-Sanz’s rigorous skepticism (« is the evidence strong enough? ») means that few lexical items get through her interrogation unbattered and unbowed. Some words are rejected altogether as probably of native origin (e.g., OE cal « kale, » OE wrang « wrong, injustice »), one new word from Cnut’s laws is added. The author has a gift for clarity of presentation, from her exemplary introduction through nineteen sets of tables and four appendices (the first listing all Norse-derived terms attested in Old English texts, the second, of 67 pages, Old English texts recording Norse-derived terms). This volume is a solid contribution to the study of cultural contact between English and Norse speakers during the long Viking Age.
Urbanski Charity, Writing history for the king: Henry II and the politics of vernacular historiography, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 2013, 272 p. ISBN: 9780801451317
Compte rendu par/Review by : John Spence
Date : 7 Sep 2014
This book contributes to the growing body of scholarship exploring the agendas and approaches of those innovative twelfth-century vernacular chroniclers who wrote compelling histories in Old French that offered persuasive lessons for their contemporary readers. Charity Urbanksi’s aim here is to understand how two such works, Wace’s Roman de Rou and Benoît de Sainte-Maure’s Chronique des ducs de Normandie, took up this challenge with the added spur that their patron (and possibly their most demanding reader) was Henry II himself, seeking an account of his Norman ancestors. The central proposition of the book is that Wace chose not to satisfy the requirements of a royal commission to recount the king’s family history in a manner which suited Henry’s needs (given the challenges of his rise to power and his reign), whereas Benoît (as Wace’s successor in the role) cleaved closely to a partisan, celebratory approach. In broad outline, this will be familiar to those already acquainted with recent scholarship on Wace and Benoît, such as the work of Elisabeth van Houts, Francoise Le Saux and Jean Blacker, but the argument has been fleshed out in considerable detail by Urbanski.
Pierre Michel (éd.), Naissance de la Normandie. 911, le traité de Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, Paris, SPM, 2013, 166 p. ISBN: 9782901952978
Compte rendu par/Review by : Noëlle Cherrier-Lévêque
Date : 5 Jul 2014
Par le célèbre traité de Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, le roi Charles le Simple accorda au chef scandinave Rollon la possession en toute propriété de terres de l’Epte jusqu’à la mer, ce qui deviendra la Normandie. Rollon obtint que ces domaines seraient transmis à ses héritiers, une terre à piller vers la Bretagne, et la promesse d’un mariage avec la fille de Charles le Simple. Ils scellèrent la transaction en concluant un pacte d’amitié. Rollon reçoit le baptême et s’engage à servir militairement le roi. Ces détails nous ont été transmis par le moine picard Dudon de Saint-Quentin, invité par le duc Richard II en 994, plus de quatre vingts ans après l’événement, à rédiger une histoire des ducs de Normandie destinée à célébrer les mérites de sa lignée. Le deuxième livre de cette histoire est la principale source de ce qu’on connaît de Rollon. Cinq de ses chapitres sont consacrés à ce traité et aux circonstances de sa rédaction.