University of Minnesota
Department of French & Italian

Department of French & Italian home page.

Mary Franklin-Brown

Mary Franklin-Brown

French & Italian 309A FolH 9 Pleasant St SE


Mary Franklin-Brown is an associate professor in the Department of French and Italian, where she teaches courses in medieval culture, literature, and languages (Old French, Old Occitan). She also serves on the Graduate Faculty of the Center for Medieval Studies and the Adjunct Faculty of the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature. With extensive experience working in European manuscript libraries, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Medieval Society, Paris.

Professor Franklin-Brown's first book, "Reading the World: Encyclopedic Writing in the Scholastic Age," was published by the University of Chicago Press in August 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 analyses 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 allows 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 second book, "Rewriting the Human in the Twelfth Century: Cosmogonies and Technics," which reassesses the humanism of such twelfth-century writers as Bernard Silvester, Alan of Lille, Hildegard of Bingen, Peter of Blois, and the translator-poets who produced the Old French Romances of Antiquity. In the new book, she argues that these texts' ambivalent representations of the human, which are fissured by the conflicting philosophical paradigms of the period and complicated by experiments in literary form, can both deepen our understanding of the twelfth-century "renaissance" and provide useful grounds for present-day debates (elicited by artificial intelligence, robotics, and science fiction) about the "posthuman."

As a complement to "Rewriting the Human," 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 define or challenge community? How can we revalorize poetry as something that functions in the world, rather than simply the esoteric indulgence of a few educated readers? As preparation for this third book, which will treat liturgical poetry, hagiography, the chanson de geste (epic), and troubadour lyric, she is working on a series of articles on twelfth-century political poetry.


  • Old French Romance and Epic
  • Troubadour lyric
  • Latin Poetry and Commentaries
  • Ramon Llull
  • Dialogue between contemporary and medieval philosophy
  • Encyclopedism
  • Medieval Humanisms
  • Codicology, manuscript culture and reception theories

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.


  • 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.
  • “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. Ed. Leslie Zarker Morgan, John Levy, and Sophie Marnette. Medium Aevum Monographs. Oxford: Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature, forthcoming 2014.
  • Franklin-Brown, Mary. "Poetry's Place in Medieval Taxonomies of Knowledge." Taxonomies of Knowledge: Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age, University of Pennsylvania, November 16–17, 2012. Ed. Emily Steiner and Lynn Ransom. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming 2014.
  • “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. "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
  • 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
  • McKnight Arts and Humanities Summer Fellowship, 2007
  • Bourse Chateaubriand en sciences sociales et littérature, 2004 - 2005
  • Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, 2000 - 2001

Courses Taught

  • FREN/MEST 8110, new fall 2014: Poetry, Politics, and Community in the Twelfth Century (Ph.D. seminar)
  • FREN 8190, fall 2014: Old French Workshop
  • FREN 3115, spring 2015: Saints and Soldiers in Medieval French Literature (Upper-division undergraduate course, taught in French)
  • FREN 3017W, new spring 2015: Advanced Writing in French: Genre, Style, Rhetoric (Upper-division undergraduate course)
  • Global Seminar May 2015: Medieval Spaces: Life and Literature in Southern France
  • FREN 3140: The Renaissance in Prose (Upper-division undergraduate course, taught in French)
  • FREN 3611/3711: Deciphering the Courtly Literatures of Medieval France (Upper-division undergraduate course, taught in English with a French option for majors and minors)
  • FREN 8110: Experiments in Romance (Ph.D. seminar on Old French romance, ca. 1150–ca. 1250)
  • FREN 8114: The Troubadours (Ph.D. seminar on courtly lyric and Occitan language workshop)
  • FREN 8190: Readings in Foucault (Ph.D. seminar)
  • FREN 8190: The 'Roman de la Rose' and the Erotic Textualities of Scholasticism (Ph.D. seminar)
  • FREN 3101W: Methods in French Studies
  • FREN 3016: Advanced French Grammar and Composition
  • FREN 1905: Confessions, true or otherwise (Freshmen Seminar)
Alternative Output Formats Alternative Output Formats