Prof Jane Gilbert

Prof Jane Gilbert

Professor of Medieval Literature and Critical Theory


Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Joined UCL
22nd Sep 1997

Research summary

I research on medieval French and English literature, both separately and comparatively. I am always particularly interested in relations between medieval literature and modern critical theory (especially but not exclusively francophone).

My current project is on Form in Translation – in which the understanding both of ‘form’ and of ‘translation’ are ongoing questions. I am interested in thinking about how literary form translates in medieval texts and manuscripts, in how forms are laid out in manuscripts, and in the affective, literary and philosophical consequences. My corpus covers Old and Middle French (both continental and 'insular', that is, 'Anglo-Norman' (earlier) and 'Anglo-French' (later)), Middle English and Latin, and includes texts and manuscripts from the 11th to the 15th centuries.

I am preparing an article, 'Singing in (Different) Tongues' following two conference papers, about linguistic and formal code-switching (alexandrine laisses/tail-rhyme, English and French), in the 'chronicle' of Pierre de (Peter) Langtoft and its manuscripts, relating this to ideas about 'sonic warfare'. I am currently especially interested in brackets (honestly!)as marking – or rather as creating – form. Here are examples from two manuscripts from England (there are continental examples also):



I discuss these in ‘Form and/as Mode of Existence’, Romanic Review, 111.1 (2020), 27-47, approaching brackets via Bruno Latour's Inquiry into Modes of Existence, http://modesofexistence.org/.

       If you have examples of brackets in manuscripts, please do send me details, I would be very glad to hear from you.

I am currently working on papers and articles relating early French literary prose to early photography, via Roland Barthes’s writings.

I have also done some preliminary work on alexandrines in the light of Giorgio Agamben's work (published in Exemplaria in 2015, details under 'Publications'), and intend to develop this. I plan also to look at prosimetrum and/or lyric insertion.

I was a co-investigator on the AHRC-funded 2011-2015 project, Medieval Francophone Literature Outside France, http://www.medievalfrancophone.ac.uk/ The project monograph, co-authored with Bill Burgwinkle (Cambridge) and Simon Gaunt (KCL), is forthcoming with OUP: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/medieval-french-literary-culture-abroad-9780198832454?cc=gb&lang=en&

       In this context, I am interested especially in links between northern France, the Low Countries, England, the Rhineland and Savoy. The themes that attract me are especially translatio, translation and metamorphosis, legendary histories/historical myths and their relation to fiction, ways of thinking about community, and prophecy. 

Teaching summary

At undergraduate level, I teach specialist courses on medieval French literature (FREN0010, FREN0031, the latter also available as an MA option) and comparative literature (FREN0006; ELCS0011, also available as an MA option ELCS0051). My current courses focus on the reception and translatio of classical material in the Middle Ages, especially metamorphosis and legendary histories/historical myth. My teaching is inspired by strange, disturbing encounters between medieval literature and modern critical theory, and by what this can allow us to discover about our own practices as well as about those of people centuries ago.

At MA level, I teach medieval French literature and culture in various courses on various programmes, and also teach comparative literature both medieval and not, and critical theory. I have a teaching interest in versions of Antigone from many different cultural contexts, and also in Joan of Arc.

I am happy to discuss supervising dissertations or theses, especially on my specialist medieval topics but also more widely.


University of Cambridge
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1993
Courtauld Institute of Art, London
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Postgraduate Diploma | 1989
University of Cambridge
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1987


My undergraduate degree was in English and French at King's College, Cambridge, after which I worked in the bookshop at the Tate Gallery and studied medieval Art History at the Courtauld Institute before returning to Cambridge to do my PhD on doubles and doubling in medieval French and English narratives. After a Junior Research Fellowship and College Lectureship at Murray Edwards College (then New Hall), I came to UCL in 1997.