Anglo-Norman Reading Group

Jane Bliss reports on the Oxford Anglo-Norman Reading Group.

The group is now nearly as old as the century! It was born of a chance conversation in the Taylorian Library, as we deplored an apparent lack of interest in Anglo-Norman. Having had a crash course with Tony Hunt during my MPhil studies, I was aware of the riches that are available but usually ignored by those who think the language is even more difficult than Old French.  From the outset we were keen to build an informal and collaborative forum for reading, discussing, and translating a wide variety of texts.  We welcome all comers, primarily graduate students but also numerous others, whatever their level of knowledge.

We study the literature of Anglo-Norman (the insular French of the Middle Ages), presenting and translating texts chosen according to members’ needs or suggestions. The range of material is inclusive: romance, chronicle, saints’ life, religious material, letters, legal texts, and much more. When possible, we invite a guest speaker, or (for example) the editor of a work in progress.  Recent texts have included the Anglo-Norman life of St Godric, presented by one of its recent editors Margaret Coombe, and an Apocalypse edited and translated (with our help) by Antje Carroll.  We even once presented extracts from one of our texts at the Medieval Road Show:  dramatic readings from the Maniere de Langage in which sample conversations, some highly comic, are offered to the language student.

We usually meet fortnightly, from 5.00-6.30pm, on a Friday. The group is currently supported by Helen Swift, who kindly arranges a room for us in St Hilda’s College, and a Convenor (Stephanie Hathaway) who looks after technical matters with splendid efficiency.  I lead the work on the texts:  I have done extensive research in Anglo-Norman literature (as an independent scholar); I studied with Tony Hunt and have many years teaching experience; I have published a number of books and articles in the field. 

The group varies from about 4 to 12 people, depending on their other commitments in a busy Oxford term; our hybrid sessions have attracted scholars from farther afield and may bring the number up to as many as 20. In fact, we have recently attracted a medievalist all the way from Bristol University, to take part in person whenever she can. We take it in turns to read the text aloud, never mind the pronunciation, and then help one another with translation and commentary.  Each text is presented at the beginning of term with an introduction, questions are explored, and discussion is encouraged.  A `padlet’ is provided for disseminating texts, sources, secondary materials, other interesting clips, and so on.

Thanks to our convenor and OMS, our studies are lubricated by a choice of wine or soft drinks. This encourages lateral thinking, and definitely aids relaxation at the end of a busy week. In addition, when we have a visiting speaker, we arrange to take them out to dinner. Failing that, we often meet for a drink together after the end of term.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the memory of Paul Hyams, who declared on joining us: `Historians don’t read enough romances, nor will they read anything in French.’  He was a faithful member of the group almost to his death last year, contributing to our understanding of the language used for day-to-day admin in medieval Britain. 

Jane Bliss (
Image thanks to St Brendan

Old French Reading Group

When: Wednesdays at 4 pm. Weeks 4, 6, 8

Where: St Hilda’s College

The Old French Reading Group will meet fortnightly to read aloud and discuss Old French texts together. Readers of Old French of all abilities are invited to attend; the group will provide an opportunity to collaboratively enhance reading proficiency in a relaxed environment (with refreshments provided)!

Our first meeting will take place at St Hilda’s College, 4pm Thursday 3rd November. We hope to see you there.

Please direct any questions about the group to Alice ( or Irina (

Header image: La Chanson de Roland, Bodleian Library MS. Digby 23, Part 2, fol. 12r

Palaeography Self-Help Groups

Students in the history and MML faculties are working together on two palaeography groups, one every week of term, alternating between French and Iberian palaeography. They are both student run, collaborative groups where people can bring something they’re working on to get help from others and work through things together, and improve their skills. We also share resources and course recommendations.

The Iberian Palaeography group will meet weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8, on Tuesdays at 5pm, via Teams.

We will be scheduling the French Palaeography group based on members’ availability.

If you’d like to be involved please email Clare Burgess at, and state which group (or both!) you’re interested in.

Header image: Livre de Merlin (Arras, 1310), Add MS 38117, f. 76r(Source: British Library)

Germanic Reading Group

Michaelmas: Fridays at 4 pm. Week 2, 4 — online. Week 6 — hybrid. Week 8 — in person (venue TBC).

Friday, 21 October. Old Dutch/Old Low Franconian — Johanneke Sytsema leading

Friday, 4 November. Old Saxon — Will Thurlwell leading

Thursday (!), 17 November. Gothic: ‘The linguistic relationship between the Gothic Bible and its Greek source’, by Professor Carla Falluomini (University of Perugia)
Where: Oxford Linguistics Faculty, Common Room / via Zoom

Friday, 2 December. Modern Bernese German (Bärndütsch) — Philomen Probert leading

To join the mailing list or receive the zoom-link, email
The handouts will be circulated a few days before each meeting.

Header image: Page from the Codex Argenteus showing part of the Gothic (Wulfila) Bible (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Queer and Trans Medievalisms: A Reading Group

Michaelmas: Mondays at 3pm, weeks 2, 4, 6 and 8, Univ College (room TBC)

This informal reading group will explore queer and trans themes in medieval texts. In Michaelmas, we’ll be thinking about queer/trans sanctity across medieval Christian, Jewish and Sufi traditions.

Week 2: Queer longings for God

Week 4: Transfemme prayer: Kalonymus ben Kalonymus

Week 6: Transmasc sainthood: Euphrosyne/Smaragdus

Week 8: The trial of Joan of Arc

All extremely welcome! To join the mailing list and get texts in advance, or if you have any questions, email                                                     

Middle High German Reading Group MT 2021

Hello fellow friends of Medieval German, 

with a slight delay, we want to introduce this term’s Middle High German reading group.

It is a great opportunity to improve your reading and translating skills in a relaxed and informal environment and everybody is welcome. We translate and discuss a variety of medieval texts both prose and poetry. 

This terms topic will be adultery, so you can look forward to  

4th week: Nibelungenlied 

5th week: Tristan (Gottfried von Straßburg) 

6th week: Tristan (Gottfried von Straßburg) 

7th week: Die Suche nach dem glücklichen Ehepaar (Heinrich Kaufringer)

8th week: Der Renner: Ziegenschwank (Hugo von Trimberg) 

We will meet every Thursday at Somerville College in the Productivity Room (Margery Fry) at 9:00 and are looking forward to seeing you all there.

If you want to participate, please send an e-mail to Also, as the texts and some useful information about Middle High German will be shared in a Dropbox, please include your Dropbox e-mail address, so we can add you.

We are really looking forward to meet you all!

All the best

Rebekka and Melina

Image: Da1 (D) = Darmstadt, Ld. u. Hochschulbibl. Cod. 2779 (Hugo von Trimberg: ‘Der Renner’): The lover and the goat, f. 186v