La Formule

Director: Colette Stévanovitch

IDEA’s medievalists look at the materiality of discourse from the perspective of oral-traditional practices. To be preserved and passed on from one generation to the next, a discourse must first acquire a fixed form. In our contemporary culture, this typically means a written form. Oral-traditional societies, however, had other ways to preserve their textual heritage: they relied on traditional formulas and other fixed forms of various sizes and shapes (type scenes, traditional themes, recurring narrative patterns…) to shape discourse in a memorable way.

Oral-traditional textual practices do not merely imply a different type of textual form: they imply modes of composition and reception radically different from our own, where the author the performer of a traditional discourse rather than an individual creator and where the audience can use their knowledge of that same traditional discourse to evaluate new compositions.

Medieval literature, especially medieval poetry, retained many aspects of that peculiar mode of producing discourse long after the advent of writing. IDEA’s medievalists and their partners in other universities aim to gain a better understanding of medieval textuality through two interconnected projects.

International and Interdisciplinary Conferences on Formulas in Medieval Culture

Since 2008, IDEA has (co-)organised 4 conferences on formulas in medieval culture to gain a better conceptual understanding of formulas. After a first conference on formulas in Medieval England in 2008, the team decided what was needed was a truly interdisciplinary approach, gathering medievalists from all fields to build together a shared understanding of medieval formulaicity. The conferences are not just a way to encourage reflection on formulaicity but also a stepping stone for the creation of a network of medievalists of all disciplines interested in that notion, hence the decision to host the conference in different universities to bring in new partners every time.

  • 2010, 1st International & Interdisciplinary Conference on Formulas in Medieval Culture (Nancy: IDEA)
  • 2012, 2nd International & Interdisciplinary Conference on Formulas in Medieval Culture (Nancy & Metz: IDEA, Centre de Recherche Universitaire Lorrain d’Histoire et Centre de médiévistique Jean Schneider)
  • 2014, 3rd International & Interdisciplinary Conference on Formulas in Medieval Culture (Perpignan: IDEA, CRHiSM, VECT-Mare Nostrum & Institut Des Méditerranées)

Past conferences have led to the publication of collections of essays in the ARTeM series, published by Brepols:

La Formule au Moyen-Âge, ed. Elise Louviot (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012)

La Formule au Moyen-Âge II: Formulas in Medieval Culture II, ed. Isabelle Draelants and Christelle Balouzat-Loubet (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015)

La Formule au Moyen-Âge III: Formulas in Medieval Culture III, ed. Olivier Simonin & Caroline de Barrau (Turnhout: Brepols, to be published) 

The Translation Project

IDEA’s medievalists have launched an ambitious collective translation project, uniting the efforts of most French specialists of Middle English literature to produce translations and editions of major Middle English romances.

The first volume was published in 2010 and its texts were selected for the Agrégation syllabus in 2014 and 2015.

Les lais bretons moyen-anglais, ed. Colette Stévanovitch & Anne Mathieu, Textes Vernaculaires du Moyen Âge (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010)

The second volume, on the two Middle English Mort du roi Arthur, in in progress.