UoB Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor Keith Busby, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Keith Busby profile photoA Critical Edition of the French Works of Jofroi de Waterford (ca. 1300)

15 March - 15 May 2018


Keith Busby (BA French, Magdalen College, Oxford, 1972; Ph. D. Medieval Studies, University of York, 1980).  Douglas Kelly Professor of Medieval French, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2000, Emeritus 2011); George Lynn Cross Research Professor of French, University of Okahoma, 1988-2000; Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor of French and Comparative Literature, Universities of Utrecht and Leiden, The Netherlands (1976-1988). 

His first publications were on French Arthurian romance (Gauvain in Old French Literature 1980), and numerous articles. Other articles were devoted to the comparative study of Middle English texts and their French models. In 1993, he published a major critical edition of Chrétien de Troyes’s Perceval and co-edited and co-authored The Manuscripts of Chrétien de Troyes (2 vols.), called “the most beautiful book ever published on Chrétien de Troyes”. These two publications led him to formulate the ideas in Codex and Context (2002, 2 vols.). This has been called “groundbreaking” and “monumental” and appears to have been instrumental in establishing reading texts in manuscript as a major scholarly means of approaching medieval French literature. Some now refer to the topic as “material philology”. It has served as a model for other studies and major European funded projects. Work on Codex and Context also allowed Busby to formulate the notion of “medieval Francophonia” which now enjoys widespread currency and has also provided the basis for the recent work of others. 

More recently, he has turned his attention to the use of French in medieval Ireland and the image of Ireland in medieval French literature. French in Medieval Ireland, Ireland in Medieval French: The Paradox of Two Worlds (forthcoming, 2017) examines the corpus of French written in Ireland and the persistent image of Ireland as a land of marvels in medieval French literature. One of the discoveries made while researching this book is that the French texts of Jofroi de Waterford were written ca. 1300 in Waterford, not Paris, as had been universally assumed. An edition of these three largely unedited texts (translations of Dares Phrygius, Eutropius, and the Secretum Secretorum) is the principal project on which he will be working during his tenure of the Meaker Fellowship. His entire publications to date include six books, twenty-six edited or co-edited volumes, 109 articles, numerous articles in reference works and encyclopedias, and over 150 books reviews. He has been International President of the International Courtly Literature Society (2010-2013) and the International Arthurian Society (2011-2014). Keith Busby has held visiting fellowships and professorships in the UK, France, the USA, and Ireland. He has given numerous lectures and plenary lectures at universities and international conferences.  


Jofroi de Waterford, was a friar of St. Saviour’s Priory, Waterford. Around 1300, he translated into French three Latin texts: the De excidio Troiae of “Dares Phrygius”, the Breviarium historiae romanae of Eutropius, and the Secretum secretorum of the Pseudo-Aristotle; only parts of the Secretum have ever been edited. In the principal manuscript, Paris, BnF, MS français 1822, Jofroi states that his works were written in collaboration with one Servais Copale; Servais was a Walloon and seems to have been Jofroi’s scribe. The manuscript has been digitized and is available online. The dialect of the three texts is Hiberno-Norman with a marked Walloon overlay.  

In French in Medieval Ireland, Ireland in Medieval French: The Paradox of Two Worlds (Turnout: Brepols, 2017; Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe), Keith Busby shows that Servais Copale was a merchant and tax-collector in Waterford, and that Jofroi’s works were translated and copied in Ireland, and not Paris, as had always been assumed. This discovery expands many times over the corpus of French written in Ireland, and its cultural consequences are considerable. The three Latin texts translated must have been available to Jofroi in Waterford, as must copies of the other Latin texts and French originals present in fr. 1822, likely a first-generation copy made in Waterford. This supports other evidence pointing to Waterford as the centre of Irish literary Francophonia. Given the revised view of French in Ireland proposed by Busby’s book, it seems imperative that Jofroi’s three texts be made available in a scholarly edition. Much of the actual editing of the texts will be completed in the course of 2017, and the proposed tenure of the Meaker Fellowship (15 March- 15 May, 2018) will be devoted to writing parts of the introduction (Jofroi and Servais; the Waterford cultural context; study of Jofroi’s translation and adaptation procedures; description of manuscript; analysis of the language), textual notes and glossaries. 

During his stay in Bristol Professor Busby will be hosted by Dr Leah Tether (English/Digital) and Professor Brendan Smith (History)

Professor Busby will give the following lectures:

Public Lecture: The Critical Edition: Death or Dearth? - Tuesday 24 April, 17:00, LT2, Woodland Road

Departmental (School) Lecture (to be hosted by the Centre for Medieval Studies): “Francophone Waterford and Kilkenny in the Middle Ages”

Graduate Seminar: “Varieties of Medieval Francophonia”