French Fetish wins scholarly prize

York Professor Deanne Williams has won this year’s Bainton Prize for her book The French Fetish from Chaucer to Shakespeare (2004) which details how English literature emerged from the legacy of the Norman Conquest.

Deznne WilliamsThe Roland H. Bainton Prize for the best book on early modern literature is awarded annually by the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, a scholarly society that is interested in the early modern era (ca. 1450 – ca. 1660).

Left: Deanne Williams

Williams, who teaches in the English Department of York’s Faculty of Arts, specializes in medieval and early modern literature, especially Shakespeare. She is also co-editor of a collection of essays titled Postcolonial Approaches to the European Middle Ages: Translating Cultures (2005). In 2003, she received the John Charles Polanyi Prize for literature (see the Nov. 25, 2003 issue of YFile).

book coverHer book, The French Fetish from Chaucer to Shakespeare, examines the impact of the Norman Conquest on the culture of medieval and early modern England. Williams contends that it was not only French language and literature, but the idea of Frenchness itself, that produced England’s literary and cultural identity. Examining a variety of English representations of, and responses to, France and “the French” in the work of Chaucer, Caxton, Skelton, Shakespeare and others, the book shows how English literature emerged out of a simultaneous engagement with, and resistance to, the pervasive presence of French language and culture in England that was the legacy of the Norman Conquest. Drawing upon current theories of gender and postcoloniality, the book revises traditional notions of English literary history by inserting France as a primary element in English self-fashioning, from Chaucer’s Prioress to Shakespeare’s Henry V.