AbstractWhat would a history of medieval literature in French that is not focused on France and Paris look like? Taking as its starting point the key role played in the development of textual culture in French by geographical regions that are either at the periphery of French-speaking areas, or alternatively completely outside them, this article offers three case studies: first of a text composed in mid-twelfth century England; then of one from early thirteenth-century Flanders; and finally from late thirteenth-century Italy. What difference does it make if we do not read these texts, and the language in which they are written, in relation to French norms, but rather look at their cultural significance both at their point of production, and then in transmission? A picture emerges of a literary culture in French that is mobile and cosmopolitan, one that cannot be tied to the teleology of an emerging national identity, and one that is a bricolage of a range of influences that are moving towards France as well as being exported from it. French itself functions as a supralocal written language (even when it has specific local features) and therefore may function more like Latin than a local vernacular.
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