Edwin Erle Sparks Professor Emeritus
 of French and Medieval Studies
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802-6203



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A medievalist with a Ph.D. from Indiana University, I have held previous academic positions at Indiana, The University of Kansas, UCLA (visiting), and Washington University in St. Louis. I also served as department chair at Kansas (French and Italian) and at Washington University (Romance Languages and Literatures) for a total of fourteen years. In 1998 I accepted appointment at Penn State as the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of French (with the "Medieval Studies" title added in 2002). I retired 30 June 2012.

My research and teaching focus principally on the Arthurian legend (medieval and modern) and on medieval narrative, especially romance and fabliau. In the area of Arthurian studies I have written The Craft of Chrétien de Troyes, co-authored The Arthurian Handbook , edited The Arthurian Encyclopedia (and its successor, imaginatively titled The New Arthurian Encyclopedia), and edited and translated the Tristran of Béroul. I also directed a five-volume translation of the French Vulgate (or Lancelot-Grail) and Post-Vulgate Cycles of Arthurian romance, providing the translation of one of the romances, La Mort Artu (‘The Death of Arthur’); later revised, this set was reissued in ten paperback volumes. In addition, I have edited or co-edited a number of other Arthurian volumes, including The Legacy of Chrétien de Troyes, A Companion to Chrétien de Troyes, The Fortunes of King Arthur, A History of Arthurian Scholarship, Perceval/Parzival: A CasebookThe Grail, the Quest, and the World of King Arthur, and the third edition of The Romance of Arthur. I also ventured briefly into Arthurian fiction with A Camelot Triptych. The majority of my articles and papers have also treated Arthurian subjects; most of those are on medieval French literature, but some deal with other medieval literatures (e.g., Dutch and Norse) and with modern literature (French, English, and American), as well as film.

My non-Arthurian volumes include a book titled Reading Fabliaux, a co-edited volume on The Old French Fabliaux: Essays on Comedy and Context, and three critical editions: 26 chansons d'amour de la Renaissance (a collection of sixteenth-century French chansons populaires); a "modern medieval" romance (that is, a nineteenth- or twentieth-century counterfeit) titled L'Istoyre de Jehan Coquault ; and (co-edited) Les Voeux du heron, a fictionalized medieval account of the genesis of the Hundred Years War.

In the classroom, my experience includes both the full range of undergraduate French courses (language, literature, and civilization) and a wide variety of graduate offerings. Among the latter are From Arthur to the Grail, Chansons de geste, Medieval Romance, Epic and Romance, Fabliaux, The Literature of Courtly Love, Medieval Lyric, François Villon, Problems of Genre in Medieval Literature, The Medieval Literary Arts, Paris in the Middle Ages, The Tristan Legend, Textual Criticism and Editing, Old French, History of the French Language, Introduction to Graduate Studies, Literary Criticism, Renaissance Literature, and Medieval Comedy, Parody, and Irony. My Arthurian seminars, in French and Comparative Literature, have treated major medieval authors, texts, and themes (e.g., Chrétien de Troyes, the Vulgate Cycle, Grail Literature, Quests and Tests in Arthurian Literature). I have also offered comparative courses that deal with the entire spectrum of Arthuriana from archaeology and chronicles to literature, painting, music, film, the decorative arts, and popular culture.

I am very grateful to have received several honors over the years. Among them are a knighthood in France's Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Chevalier, 1988; elevated to Officier, 2003); my election as President (1984-87; then as Honorary President) of the International Arthurian Society; and my receiving in 2014 a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the International Arthurian Society, North American Branch, for my contribution to Arthurian studies. I am also particularly pleased by two publications in my honor. In May 2000, I was presented with "Por le soie amisté": Essays in Honor of Norris J. Lacy (ed. Keith Busby and Catherine M. Jones), a collection of articles by colleagues in eight countries. And in Summer 2008, Arthuriana published an issue (a "Lagniappe Festschrift") dedicated to me; it was edited by two of my former graduate students (Kristin L. Burr and David S. King) and features articles by them and by several more of my former students.

Since my retirement I have continued writing and speaking on medieval literature, though at a less hectic pace. Much of my time now is spent on art (especially photography and digital painting) and music. My photography has been included in a number of exhibits (in addition to three solo shows in the past); I have won a few small prizes and have sold a number of photographs. Concerning music: following retirement, I returned after exactly fifty years (and a month) to what had financed my undergraduate education: the saxophone. After a couple of months of practice, I had my first gig, with a band known as “The Hounds of Soul,” which plays Motown, soul, and funk. Soon, I was frequently playing tenor–and sometimes baritone–sax with a big swing band and, regularly, alto sax with another local jazz band. I am also a clarinetist with our municipal concert band.

Finally, but by no means least, I am a lover of cats, books, tropical beaches, and good food.

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