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Evelyn Birge Vitz

Professor of French ; Director of Undergraduate Studies

Ph.D., Yale; M.A., Middlebury; B.A., Smith.

Office Address: 

13 University Pl, Rm 623 New York, NY 10003



Affiliated with other departments or programs:

Comparative Literature, Religious Studies, and Medieval & Renaissance Studies


I am a broad-based medievalist and have worked on virtually all periods, many major authors, and most genres of medieval literature, including epic, romance, autobiographical narrative, lyric poetry (and early ballads), liturgy, handlings of the Bible, hagiography, and Crusader literature. I also work beyond the French tradition—on medieval Europe in general, and on the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. I have drawn on various kinds of theory, in particular, narratology, in order to grasp medieval plot structures. I have worked on the complex relations between oral and written tradition (often a two-way street!). Much of my recent work deals with the performance of medieval narrative: drawing on evidence from the texts, manuscript tradition, and historical documents, I attempt to reconstruct performance possibilities of medieval epics, romances, and tales. (I also teach an UG course that is like an ongoing workshop: talented students perform all the works they read and study; many clips are available on my performance websites; I thus also work in the Digital Humanities.) Currently, I am also working on theories of cognition, as well as on the representation and role of the emotions in medieval literature. For example, how do various medieval genres differ in their handling of the emotions of the characters and in the emotional responses elicited from audiences? The general purpose of my scholarly work is, I would say, to make sense of the Middle Ages—both other and (as it were) us.


National Endowment for the Humanities and French Government grants; New York University Golden Dozen Awards for Excellence in Teaching.


Invitations à la performance de récits français médiévaux: Virtuosité, spectacle, érotisme, accepted for publication by Paradigme.

In the Presence of Power: Court and Performance in the Premodern Middle East, ed. Maurice A. Pomerantz and Evelyn Birge Vitz, accepted for publication by New York University Press.

Medieval and Early Modern Performance in the Eastern Mediterranean, ed. Arzu Ozturkmen and Evelyn Birge Vitz, Turnout, Brepols, 2014.

Performing Medieval Narrative, ed. with Nancy Freeman Regalado and Marilyn Lawrence, Cambridge , D.S. Brewer, 2005

Orality and Performance in Early French Romance, Cambridge, D.S. Brewer, 1999.

A Continual Feast, Ignatius Press, 1991.

Medieval Narrative and Modern Narratology: Subjects and Objects of Desire, New York University Press, 1989.

The Crossroad of Intentions: A Study of Symbolic Expression in the Poetry of François Villon, The Hague, Mouton, 1974.


"Medieval Tales in Performance,” Youtube performance site;  launched May 2016:

“Performing Medieval Narrative Today: A Video Showcase,” co-directed with Marilyn Lawrence, New York University Digital Studio: Relaunched January 2008.

"Arthurian Legend Performed": "vimeos" of scenes from Arthurian tradition here. Project co-directed with Marilyn Lawrence. Launched fall 2011. Seventeen vimeos completed thus far, others in progress.

Articles and Contributions to Books, Recent and Forthcoming:

“Performance and Competition of Kingship and Court in Le Voyage de Charlemagne à Jerusalem et à Constantinople: Real and Imaginary Encounters between the Medieval West and the Middle East,” in Presence of Power: Court and Performance in the Pre-modern Middle East, eds. Pomerantz and Vitz, NYU Press, 2017.

“Performability in the Cycle of Guillaume d’Orange: La Prise d’Orange and Le Moniage Guillaume” for  “Il fist que proz”“: Essays in Honor of Robert Francis Cook, eds. Sara Jane (Dietzman) Miles and Stephen Martin, British Rencesvals Publications, submitted.

“Separation and Loss: An ‘Attachment Theory’ Approach to Emotions in the Traditional French Chanson” for Papers from Ballad Conference, University of Stellenbosch South Africa, 2013, submitted.

“Zsigeri történetek,” a Hungarian translation of Vitz, “Tales with Guts: A ‘Rasic’ Esthetic in French Medieval Storytelling”: , 2016.

“Muslim and Christian Emotions and the Issue of Alterity in the Crusade Epic Les Chétifs,” for The Epic Imagination in Medieval Literature: Essays in Honor of Alice M. Colby-Hall, eds. Philip Bennett, Leslie Morgan, Regina Psaki, University of Mississippi, Romance Monographs, 2016.

“Teaching Boiardo and Ariosto through Performance,” for Teaching Italian Renaissance Epic, ed. Jo Ann Cavallo, in press, New York, MLA.

“Medieval Storytelling and Analogous Oral Traditions Today: Two Digital Databases,” with Marilyn Lawrence, special issue of Oral Tradition: 28.2; August 2014.

“Animal and Human Appetites in Early Branches of Le Roman de Renart,” Proceedings of the Paris Symposium of the International Medieval Society: Human/Animal, June 2012, eds. Anna Russakov and Irène Fabry-Tehranchi; Rodopi 2014, pp. 101-114.

“The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus’: Can We Reawaken Performance of this Hagiographical Folktale?” Medieval and Early Modern Performance in the Eastern Mediterranean, eds. Arzu Ozturkmen and Evelyn Birge Vitz, 2014, Turnout, Brepols, 2014, pp. 89-121.

“Theatricality and its Limits: Dialogue and the Art of the Storyteller in the Romances of Chrétien de Troyes,” Le Dialogue au Moyen Age, ed. Corinne Denoyelle. Orléans, Paradigme, 2013, pp. 27-44. 

Le Roman de la Rose, Performed in Court,” Shaping Courtliness in Medieval France: Essays in Honor of Matilda Tomaryn Bruckner, eds. Daniel E. O'Sullivan and Laurie Shepard. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2013, pp. 151-161.

“Twentieth Century Catholic Authors and the Secular World,” Scittori del Novecento e Mistero Cristiano, eds. John Wauck and Enrique Fuster. Rome, University of Santa Croce Press, 2012, pp. 117-137.

“Bringing the Middle Ages to Life in the Classroom,” with Marilyn Lawrence, for TEAMS, “The Once and Future Classroom”:

“Bringing Medieval Stories to Life Digitally,” for conference on “The Digital World of Art History,” Princeton University, Index of Christian Art, July 2012:

“Vernacular Verse Paraphrases of the Bible,” for New Cambridge History of the Bible: The Middle Ages, ed. Richard Marsden. Cambridge University Press, 2012; pp. 835-859.

“Women, Abortion, and the Brain,” co-authored with Paul C. Vitz, The Human Life Review [a longer and more detailed treatment of the material that appeared in The Public Discourse], 2011.

“Women, Abortion, and the Brain,” co-authored with Paul C. Vitz; The Public Discourse: Ethics, Law and the Common Good; e-journal published by The Witherspoon Institute, Princeton, NJ; September 20, 2010: 

“Performing Saintly Lives and Emotions in Medieval French Narrative. The Church and Vernacular Literature in Medieval France, ed. Dorothea Kullman. University of Toronto Press, 2009, pp. 201-213.

“La Performabilité de la voix et du déguisement dans le récit et au théâtre: Wistasse le moine,” Pris-Ma (University of Poitiers), XXII n° 43-44; Janvier-Décembre 2006 (parution retardée 2009), pp. 2-17.

“Tales with Guts: A ‘Rasic’ Esthetic in French Medieval Storytelling,” TDR [The Drama Review], in press: 52:4,Winter 2008., pp. 145-173.

“Performing Aucassin et Nicolette ,” Cultural Performances in Medieval France: Essays in Honor of Nancy Freeman Regalado, eds. Eglal Doss-Quinby, E. Jane Burns and Roberta Krueger, Cambridge , D.S. Brewer, 2007, pp. 239-249.

“Experimenting with the Performance of Medieval Narrative,” with Linda Marie Zaerr, Performance and Ritual in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Acts and Texts , ed. Laurie Postlewate, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2007,  pp. 303-315

“Biblical vs. Liturgical Citation in Medieval Literature and Culture,” Illuminations: Medieval and Renaissance Studies for Jonathan J.G. Alexander , eds. Gerry Guest and Susan L'Engle, Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2006, pp. 443-449.

“Teaching Arthurian Literature through Performance,” Arthuriana 15:4 (winter 2005), pp. 31-36.

Floriant et Florete ,” The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at the New York Public Library , eds. Jonathan J.G. Alexander, James Marrow and Lucy Freeman Sandler, New York Public Library/Harvey Miller, 2005, pp. 389-391.

“The Liturgy and Vernacular Literature,” The Liturgy of the Medieval Church , rev. ed., eds. Thomas Heffernan and Ann Matter, Kalamazoo/TEAMS, 2005, pp. 503-563.

“Erotic Reading in the Middle Ages: Performance and Re-performance of Romance,” in Performing Medieval Narrative , eds. E.B. Vitz, Nancy Regalado and Marilyn Lawrence, Cambridge, D.S. Brewer, 2005, pp. 73-88.

“Performance in, and of, Flamenca ,” De sens rassis: Essays in Honor of Rupert T. Pickens , eds. Keith Busby, Bernard Guidot and Logan E. Whalen, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2005, pp. 683-698.

“Liturgy as Education in the Middle Ages,” Medieval Education , eds. Ronald B. Begley and Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., Bronx, NY, Fordham Series in Medieval Studies, No. 4, Fordham University Press, 2005, pp. 20-34.

“La lecture érotique au Moyen Age et la performance du roman,” Poétique 137, février 2004, pp. 35-51.

“On the Discovery of a Lost Manuscript of Chrétien de Troyes: Toward an Appreciation of its Vast Importance for the Study of Medieval Literature and Culture” [ parody ], The Proceedings of the Pseudo Society: First Series , Kalamazoo , MI : Medieval Institute Publications, 2003, pp. 224-238.

“Minstrel Meets Clerk in Early French Literature: Medieval Romance as the Meeting-Place between Two Traditions of Verbal Eloquence and Performance Practice,” Cultures in Contact , ed. Richard Gyug, Fordham University Press, 2002, pp. 169-188.

“Liturgical Citation in French Medieval Epic and Romance,” invited contribution to Philologies Old and New: Essays in Honor of Peter Florian Dembowski , eds. Joan Grimbert and Carol Chase, Edward C. Armstrong Monographs on Medieval Literature, 2002, pp. 191-209.

“Gender and Martyrdom,” Medievalia et Humanistica, n.s., 26, 1999, pp. 70-99.

“La liturgie, Le Roman de Renart, et le problème du blasphème dans la vie littéraire au Moyen Age, ou: Les bêtes peuvent-elles blasphémer?” Reinardus 12, 1999, pp. 205-225.

“'Bourde jus mise'?: François Villon, the Liturgy, and Prayer,” Villon at Oxford: The Drama of the Text, ed. by Michael Freeman and Jane H.M. Taylor, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 1999, pp. 170-194.

“French Medieval Oral Traditions,” Teaching Oral Traditions, ed. John Miles Foley, MLA, 1998, pp. 373-381.

“Rereading Rape in Medieval Literature,” Partisan Review, April 1996, pp. 263-274.

“1215: November: The Fourth Lateran Council Prescribes that Adult Christians Confess at Least Once a Year,” A New History of French Literature, Denis Hollier, ed., Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press, 1989, pp. 82-88.

Medieval Narrative and Modern Narratology: Subjects and Objects of Desire, New York, New York University Press, 1989; paperback edition, 1993.

“Vie, légende, littérature: traditions orales et écrites dans les histoires des saints,” Poétique 72, November 1987, pp. 387-402.

“Type et individu dans l'autobiographie médiévale,” Poétique, no. 24, 1975, pp. 426-445. 

Updated on 09/06/2016