Emma Cavell (UCL) - 2021-22 Students

Post-Conquest translators and their work

My doctoral project brings into focus the pioneering authors – including women – writing in French for the very first time in medieval Britain after the Norman Conquest. How could such an immense break from the dominant written language, Latin, be explained and defended? My research examines an understudied set of saints’ lives, the most prolific genre in the period, to explore what these writers tell us about their own work. My aim is to study the dynamic relationship Anglo-Norman writers of saints’ lives have with their own work and their Latin sources, in order to study how they see themselves as translators and as authors (two different practices in the Middle Ages). In a period in which French literature was emerging for the very first time in medieval Europe, these writers had to justify the task they were undertaking. My project seeks to explore translation as a task that Anglo-Norman writers were not only consciously engaging with, but distinctly concerned to invest with prestige, with authority.

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