This paper will examine moments in vernacular French literature from the high Middle Ages in which objects and body parts that are not faces either take on the appearance of a face or act as a face might act: talking genitals, an identifying shield, or an evocative pattern of blood on snow. These moments will be set alongside the unequivocally signifying ‘real’ face that circulates in the same texts, with a view to understanding how the particular essence of ‘faceness’ is built up in the medieval literary imagination as both strangely malleable and highly readable.
Based partly on empirical data from an ongoing joint research project on John Gower’s literary language, I will present the case that, while from a conscious stylistic perspective, including versification, lexical choice and, poetic diction, Gower’s French is very continental, from a more sub-conscious systemic standpoint, principally at grammatical and phonological levels, it is indubitably Anglo-Norman. Moreover, the overridingly iambic rhythm of his prosody, running counter to the continental decasyllabic, non-iambic pattern in vogue on the continent, and almost certainly influenced by the metrical patterns of contemporary English verse – Gower’s own, included – suggests the adoption of a more nuanced position than recent criticism on Gower has espoused. His thematic choices in the balades, equally, resist straightforward cultural and generic categorisation. By employing the tools of linguistic data and literary analysis, my paper aims to shed more light on Gower’s literary-linguistic identity.
It is a well-known fact that some of Shakespeare’s characters address each other as ‘cousin’, a term used, for example, by Justice Shallow for Slender in the Merry Wives of Windsor, who appears to be a relation of his. However before Shakespeare’s time ‘cousin’ was also used for people who were not blood relatives. As the word ‘cousin’ is of French origin, this raises the question whether this use already existed in French or was a development that took place after the word ‘cousin’ was borrowed into English. This paper traces the origin and development of this use on the basis of four family correspondences, those of the Celys, Pastons, Plumptons (all in English), the Stonors (in French and English), as well as Tanquerey’s edition of Anglo-Norman letters.