The Joys of Old French

Resources for Old French




Our readings in Tristan et Iseult are taken from:

  • Lacroix, Daniel and Philippe Walter, eds. Tristan et Iseut: Les poèmes français – La saga norroise. Paris: Livre de Poche coll. “Lettres Gothiques,” 1989.



The main Tristan versions with written sources, fairly reliably dated to our main period, the  12th to 13th centuries. Old French versions are in bold. Dates are very approximate, and you will find many others, as well as more precise ones: medieval literature is uncertainties, and I tend to err on the side of caution (= a flat-footed insistence on hard evidence + a rationalist scepticism). The dates here below indicate a possible period of composition tied to known activity period of a certain poet (bearing in mind  that composition may extend over years or decades),  a time-span encompassing all hypothetical suggestions for dates, or a broad period (especially when there is very incomplete manuscript presence and patchy known transmission). NB there are Big Issues on who-influenced-whom with the first two:

  • Béroul (possibly c. 1170; and c. 1150-90)
  • Eilhart von Oberge (possible similar time of composition to Béroul, possibly earlier; maybe 1170s-80s, latest around 1200; German)
  • Marie de France, Lai du Chievrefoil (c. 1160-70)
  • Thomas aka “of Britain” (c. 1173)
  • Folie Tristan d’Oxford (supposed to be close to but later than Thomas)
  • Folie Tristan de Berne (supposed to be close to but later than Thomas)
  • Donnei des amants (13th c.)
  • Gottfried von Straβburg (1210s; left unfinished on the poet’s death; German)
  • “Brother Robert,” Tristrams saga ok Ísöndar (1226; Norse; Robert possibly an Anglo-Norman)
  • Appears in Le Roman de Jaufré (c. early 13th c.; possibly earlier – has been suggested as prior to Chrétien de Troyes; Occitan)
  • Prose Tristan (c. 1230s-40s)
  • Ulrich von Türheim (1243; continuation of Gottfried; German)
  • Heinrich von Freiberg (c. 1290s; continuation of Gottfried; German)

→  More Tristan online, Tristania fore and aft, and resources for Tristan and Iseult online …

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If you enjoy(ed) our readings and are interested of more of the similar and akin: here are some of the other Medieval French works referred to over the course of the readings. They are arranged in approximate chronological order of composition:

12TH C.

  • Abelard and Heloise, Letters (original in Latin, first French translation by Jean de Meun in the 13th c., many translations available)
  • La Chanson de Roland
  • Chrétien de Troyes, Romans: Erec et Enide, Cligès, Le Chevalier de la Charrett (Lancelot), Le Chevalier au lion (Yvain), Le Conte du Graal (Perceval)
  • Andreas Capellanus, De Amore (original in Latin; English translation as On Courtly Love)
  • Marie de France, Lais


  • Aucassin et Nicolette
  • Floire et Blanchefleur
  • Renaut de Beaujeu, Le Bel inconnu
  • Le Roman de Jaufré
  • Le Roman des Sept sages de Rome (early 13th c.; one of several versions and variants: earlier versions in Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, and Arabic; Jean de Hauteseille 12th c. Latin translation)
  • Guillaume de Lorris, Le Roman de la Rose (early 13th c.)
  • La Châtelaine de Vergy
  • (progressive collection/episodic compilation, over the 12th-14th c.) Le Roman de Renart
  • (ditto, 12th-14th c.) Fabliaux érotiques
  • (mainly 12th-13th c.) Nouvelles courtoises : inc. Raimon Vidal de Besalú, Castia gilos; Arnaut de Carcassés, Novas del Papagay


  • (Guillaume de Lorris and) Jean de Meun, Le Roman de la Rose


  • Jakemes, Le Chastelain de Coucy et la Dame de Fayel
  • Heldris de Cornüalle, Le Roman de Silence
  • Le Roman de Flamenca (in Occitan, but English translations and French parallel-texts available)

14TH-15TH C. (Middle rather than Old French)

  • Guillaume de Machaut, Le Livre du Voir dit
  • Jean Froissart, Dits
  • Alain Chartier, La Belle Dame sans merci

The editions from which our texts have been excerpted are most often available in affordable paperback parallel-text editions that are in print and should be available from Dublin libraries (TCD, UCD, public libraries c/o interlibrary loan). If you wish to buy your own copies of the full texts, the following online retailers are efficient and economical (in AB order): ABEbooksAlapageAmazon.frChapitreFnacLa Librairie du Moyen Âge


  • [well out of print, but tends to be in libraries] Bartsch, Karl and Wiese, Leo (eds.) (12th ed. 1927, 1969) Chrestomathie de l’ancien français (VIIIe – XVe s.): accompagnée d’une grammaire et d’un glossaire. Lepizig: Vogel and rep. New York: Hafner.
  • Lagarde, André and Michard, Laurent (eds.) (1993) Littérature du moyen âge: Les grands auteurs français du programme. Anthologie et histoire littéraire. Paris: Bordas.


  • Bossuat, Robert et al (1964, 1992) Dictionnaire des lettres francaises: Le Moyen Age. Paris: Fayard.
  • Bowie, Malcolm, Cave, Terence, and Kay, Sarah (2006) A Short History of French Literature. Oxford: Oxford U.P.
  • Burgess, Glyn S. and Pratt, Karen, eds. (2006) The Arthur of the French: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval French and Occitan Literature. Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages vol. 4. Lampeter: U of Wales P.
  • Cornilliat, François, Kelly, Douglas, and Langer, Ullrich (1993) What is Literature: France, 1100-1600. Lexington, KY: French Forum.
  • Gaunt, Simon (2002) Retelling the Tale: An Introduction to Medieval French Literature. London: Duckworth.
  • Gaunt, Simon and Kay, Sarah (2008) The Cambridge Companion to Medieval French Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.
  • Poirion, Daniel et al (1983) Précis de littérature française du moyen âge. Paris: P.U.F.
  • Uitti, Karl D. (1973) Story, Myth, and Celebration in Old French Narrative Poetry (1050-1200). Princeton: Princeton U.P.
  • LOOK OUT FOR: Glyn S. Burgess, Keith Busby, Douglas Kelly, and Norris J. Lacy.


  • Champion “Classiques Moyen Âge” Flammarion “GF”
  • Gallimard: some poetry in “NRF,” and some texts in “Folio”
  • Livre de Poche “Lettres Gothiques” is the largest series – includes some “Classiques Modernes” complete works (ex. Chrétien de Troyes)
  • U.G.E. “10/18”
SOME MORE PUBLISHERS/SERIES for medieval French literature: Bristol U P – Champion – Columbia U P – Droz – Durham U P – Edinburgh U P – French Forum – Glasgow U P – Hull U P – Klincksieck – U Penn P – Slatkine – Société des anciens textes français – Stock-Moyen Âge – Yale U P (a selection only, and mainly French/UK/US; no substitute for browsing library shelves and online catalogues)

→ More Old French literature online, and resources for Medieval Literature (French and otherwise)

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Mainly grammar:

  • O’Brien’s Old French Basics for Reading (restricted access)
  • Introduction to Old French in a historical-linguistic context (restricted access, being old course handout materials)

→ More Old French language online, and resources linguistic (dictionaries and grammars, links, and bibliography)

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This is really just a start, and not for the immediate purposes of our reading group – purely in case you might wish to find out more about Tristan et Iseult, medieval French literature, medieval literature, and indeed anything else in the Arts and Humanities.

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