Before the Crusades, the French language was mostly written in verse and intended for an aristocratic audience in and around France. The language itself was still young when Christians settled in areas now called the Middle East. But in Antioch, Cypress, and Jerusalem the need for communication of all types created an explosion of prose products written in French to chronicle history, negotiate legal treatises, transfer lands, and guide pilgrimages.
“At the time you had people using French in France, but you also had people going in and out of both areas–so when they set up their states they continued to use French (in place of Latin),” said Laura Morreale, Ph.D., associate director at Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies. “The question we will address is why would people choose to use French when there were these other identities?”
Morreale will be co-chairing the center’s annual conference at the Lincoln Center campus this weekend, March 29 and 30, titled “French of Outremer: Communities and Communications in the Crusading Mediterranean,” with outremer roughly translating as “oversees” to describe the Latin Eastern states founded after the First Crusades.
Running parallel to the conference will be comments and conversations on Twitter at #FOO2014. Morreale there will also be a conference website that will collect and offer support for the study of a “repertoire of works and texts.”
“We aim to make it a digital studies center,” said Morreale. “ Abstracts of papers from the conference will be are posted there and we’ll aim to publish the proceedings in either a digital or traditional format.”
While the conference is packed with experts, there are a couple of standout lectures and presentations. The University of Naples’ Laura Minervini, Ph.D., will set the stage on Saturday morning with her talk, ‘What we Know and Don’t yet Know About Outremer French.” Later in the afternoon curators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art will preview their 2016 exhibition, “Jerusalem 1000-1400.” And on Sunday morning Peter Edbury, Ph.D., of Cardiff University, widely considered the world expert on French language texts from the Latin East, will deliver, “Ernoul, Eracles and the Collapse of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.”