Mary Franklin-Brown

Mary Franklin-Brown is an associate professor in the Department of French and Italian, where she researches the literature and intellectual history of premodern France. Named a Distinguished University Teaching Professor in 2016, she offers courses in medieval literature and languages (Old French, Old Occitan, and Medieval Latin) and serves on the Graduate Faculty of the Center for Medieval Studies.

Professor Franklin-Brown's first book, "Reading the World: Encyclopedic Writing in the Scholastic Age," was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2012 with a subvention from the Medieval Academy of America and won the 2013 Harry Levin Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association. It is the first book in English devoted to the encyclopedic movement of the thirteenth century. Working from manuscript and early print sources of the texts of Vincent of Beauvais, Ramon Llull, and Jean de Meun, she analysed the various discourses that are absorbed into the medieval encyclopedia (taking "discourse" in the Foucauldian sense of a paradigm authorized by institutional power that allows the construction of both the subjects and the objects of knowing), and the way in which their juxtaposition alters their interplay. This archaeological study of the scholastic encyclopedia allowed her to situate encyclopedism at the heart of scholasticism, to open up the medieval compilation to new modes of reading, and to revise the claims made in Foucault's early work on the history of thought.

Professor Franklin-Brown is now working on a series of volumes, "The Human in the Middle," which exploit twelfth-century texts to fill a historiographical and temporal blindspot in recent work on the posthuman or new materialism. Through interpretations of Latin lyric, philosophical poetry, commentaries on classical texts, the translation/adaptations of classical epic in the romans d’Antiquité, and the romances of Chrétien de Troyes, she uncovers a complex, sometimes self-contradictory interrogation of what it means for us to be beings caught in the web of time and matter.

The first book in the series, "Time and the Lyric," ranges across classical and medieval literature but is organized as a study of a single text, the Arundel lyrics, a collection of erudite poetry from later twelfth century now owned by the British Library. Written by poets trained in the liberal arts, philosophy, and theology, these poems refract much of the learning available in their time and are strongly marked by the temporal regimes of music, astronomy, calendars, and humanistic learning. The book thus investigates the multiple temporal regimes that shaped the experience of medieval intellectuals. More broadly, it locates the human being at the intersection of temporal regimes--natural, cultural, and technological.

As a complement to "The Human in the Middle," Professor Franklin-Brown is also studying the human as political animal, or the animal that possesses language. In the period before strong central governments, how did poetry function to constitute or shape community? How can we revalorize poetry as something that functions in the world, rather than simply the esoteric indulgence of a few educated readers? This project is producing a series of articles on the chansons de geste (French epic, especially the songs of the rebellious barons) and the sirventes (invective poetry) of the troubadours Bertran de Born and Guillem de Berguedà.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley, 2006.
  • (Auditor): Medieval Philosophy, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, 2003-4.
  • (Auditor): Medieval Latin, Romance Philology, Codicology, and Paleography, Ecole nationale des chartes, Paris, 1999-2000.
  • A.M.: Comparative Literature, Dartmouth College, 1999.
  • A.B.: Comparative Literature, Dartmouth College, 1998.


  • Old French Romance and Epic
  • Latin Poetry and Commentaries
  • Troubadour lyric
  • Ramon Llull
  • Medieval Humanisms
  • Dialogue between contemporary and medieval philosophy
  • Encyclopedism
  • Codicology, manuscript culture and reception theories
Courses Taught
  • Framing the Twelfth Century: Philosophy, Poetry, Historiography; FREN/MEST 8110, new spring 2017
  • Old French Workshop (advanced language practicum for graduate students); FREN 8190, spring 2017
  • Old French in Action: Medieval French Language through Songs, Tales, and Plays (dual-level course for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students); FREN 3571/5571, new fall 2016
  • Gateways to French and Francophone Studies (beginning undergraduate course, taught in English); FREN 1501/1502, new fall 2016
  • Poetry, Politics, and Community in Twelfth-Century France (Ph.D. seminar); FREN/MEST 8110
  • The 'Roman de la Rose' and Scholastic Writing (Ph.D. seminar); FREN 8290/MEST 8110
  • The Troubadours (Ph.D. seminar on courtly lyric and Occitan language workshop); FREN 8114
  • Saints and Soldiers in Medieval French Literature (advanced undergraduate course, taught in French); FREN 3115
  • Courtly Literatures of Medieval France (advanced undergraduate course, taught in English with a French option for majors and minors); FREN 3611/3711
  • The Renaissance in Prose (advanced undergraduate course, taught in French): FREN 3140
  • Advanced Writing in French: Genre, Style, Rhetoric; FREN 3017W
  • Confessions, true or otherwise (Freshmen Seminar); FREN 1905
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Center for Medieval Studies, UMN: Assistant Director , 2016 - present
  • Modern Language Association: Forum Executive Committee on Medieval French , 2016 - present
  • Société Guilhem IX: Vice President: 2016 - present
  • International Medieval Society, Paris: North American Director , 2008 - 2013


  • Consortium for the Study of the Premodern World: Research Workshops, 2014 - present
  • Franklin-Brown, Mary. Reading the World: Encyclopedic Writing in the Scholastic Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. xxii + 431 pp. + 5 color plates.
  • Brenner, Elma, Meredith Cohen, and Mary Franklin-Brown, eds. Memory and Commemoration in the Medieval World, c.500-c.1400. Ashgate, 2013.
  • Franklin-Brown, Mary. "The Human Nature of Alexander the Great: Natural Philosophy and Cosmic Determinism in the Roman de toute chevalerie." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, forthcoming.
  • Franklin-Brown, Mary. "Wonders at the End of the World: The Marvel in Gerald of Wales' Topographia Hibernica." In Konungs skuggsjá and the European encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. Ed. Karl G. Johansson and Elise Kleivane. Bibliotheca Nordica. Oslo: Novus, forthcoming.
  • Franklin-Brown, Mary. “Llull as Encyclopedist.“Ramon Llull and Lullism. Edited by Amy M. Austin and Mark D. Johnston. Companions to the Christian Tradition. Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.
  • Franklin-Brown, Mary. "Poetry's Place in Medieval Taxonomies of Knowledge." Taxonomies of Knowledge: Information and Order in Medieval Manuscripts Ed. Emily Steiner and Lynn Ransom. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015, 56-79.
  • Franklin-Brown, Mary. “The Sacrificial Logic of the Chanson de Girart de Roussillon,” in “Si sai encor moult bon estoire, Chançon moult bone et anciene”: Studies in the Text and Context of Old French Narrative in Honour of Joseph J. Duggan. Ed. Leslie Zarker Morgan, John Levy, and Sophie Marnette. Medium Aevum Monographs. Oxford: Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature, 2015, 23-48.
  • Franklin-Brown, Mary. "The 'Speculum maius,' Between Thesaurus and Lieu de mémoire." Memory and Commemoration in the Medieval World, c.500-c.1400 (2013): 143-62.
  • Franklin-Brown, Mary. "Voice and Citation in the Chansonnier d’Urfé (Paris, Bibliothí¨que nationale de France, f. fr. 22543) ." Tenso: Bulletin of the Société Guilhem IX 27 (2012): 47-92.
  • Brown, Mary Frances. "Critique and Complicity: Metapoetical Reflections on the Gendered Figures of Body and Text in the 'Roman de la Rose'." Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 21.2 (2009): 129-60.
  • Mildred Londa Weisman Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, 2013 - 2014
  • ACLA Harry Levin Prize for "Reading the World," as best first book in Comparative Literature published 2010–2012, 2013
  • Commendation for Reading the World in the George A. and Jean S. DeLong Book History Prize Competition of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing, for books published in 2012 on any aspect of the creation, dissemination, or uses of script or print , 2013
  • Horace T. Morse/University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education, 2016
  • Commendation from the Society for French Studies in the Malcolm Bowie Prize competition, for “Critique and Complicity: Metapoetical Reflections on the Gendered Figures of Body and Text in the Roman de la Rose“, 2010
  • Bourse Chateaubriand en sciences sociales et littérature, 2004 - 2005
  • Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, 2000 - 2001
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