Professor Penny SimonsPenny Simons

Telephone: (0114) 222 2866

email :


MA (Cambridge), PhD (Sheffield)


After graduating in Modern & Medieval Languages from Newnham College, Cambridge, I spent a few years working in museums and administrative roles, before coming to the University of Sheffield to undertake doctoral research on the portrayal of education in twelfth- and thirteenth-century French literature. Upon completing this, I joined the staff as a lecturer in 1991. From 2000-2002 I was seconded as an Adviser in Learning and Teaching to the University's Staff Development Unit. I rejoined the French Department in 2002, becoming a Senior Lecturer in 2003. From 2005 I was the Director of Learning and Teaching Development for the Faculty of Arts, and in 2009 took up the role of Faculty Director of Learning and Teaching for the newly-formed Faculty of Arts and Humanities. I divide my time between the Faculty role and the Department of French.

Research interests

My research centres on romance texts written in the crucial last third of the twelfth century when this form of literary production became established and flourished in France. I am especially interested in:

  • Partonopeu de Blois, one of the major influences on the development of Old French romance after 1170;
  • texts that are ususally labelled 'non-canonical', or that have been unfairly neglected, such as Aimon de Varennes' Florimont and the anonymous Guillaume de Palerne;
  • the manuscripts in which such romances are preserved.

I am also interested in humorous texts, especially thirteenth-century fabliaux and subversive romances such as Le Bel inconnu and Joufroi de Poitiers.

Current and Recent Research Projects

I am currently working on:

  • an edition and translation of the anonymous thirteenth-century romance Joufroi de Poitiers
  • a study of the portrayal of Eastern Europe in Aimon de Varennes' Florimont

I am also returning to my interest in Partonopeu de Blois, focusing now on its influence on later romance texts.

My previous work on Partonopeu de Blois has been carried out in collaboration with Professor Penny Eley, with whom I was co-investigator for the Partonopeus de Blois Electronic edition project (2001-2005), funded by a grant from the AHRB.

Key Recent Publications

  • ‘The Battle of the Bedrooms: Le Bel Inconnu as a Rewriting of Partonopeu de Blois’, Romance Notes (forthcoming)
  • ‘Naming Names: Onomastics and Intertexts in Aimon de Varennes’ Florimont’, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, (forthcoming)
  • ‘Rural Space and Transgressive Space in Bérenger au long cul’ in Rural Space in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times, ed. by Albrecht Classen, De Gruyter Mouton, Berlin (forthcoming 2012)
  • ‘The Significance of Rural Space in Guillaume de Palerne’ in Rural Space in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times, ed. by Albrecht Classen, De Gruyter Mouton, Berlin (forthcoming 2012)
  • ‘A Balkan question: the significance of Durrës in Aimon de Varennes' Florimont’, French Studies Bulletin, 32 (2011), 2011, 14-17
  • 'Literary and Historical Contexts: Possible Tools for Dating Joufroi de Poitiers', Reading Medieval Studies, 34 (2007), 105-132
  • Penny Eley, Catherine Hanley, Mario Longtin and Penny Simons, 'Partonopeus de Blois': An Electronic Edition (Sheffield: HriOnline, 2005) at

Full list of Publications

Professional Activities

  • University of Sheffield leader for Yorkshire Universities' Consortium for 'Routes into Languages'
  • University of Sheffield nominated Governor of Wakefield Grammar Schools Foundation
  • Institutional representative for consultation with OCR/Cambridge Assessment examination Board

Postgraduate Research

Thesis topics I have supervised, or am currently supervising, include:

  • Eleanor Hodgson (ongoing), ‘Approaches to Guillaume de Palerne
  • Gemma Wheeler (ongoing), ‘Translating the Past: The Works of Geimar, Wace and Jordan Fantosme’
  • Paola Scarpini (ongoing), ‘Comic (Re)Writing: A Study of Hue De Rotelande's Ipomedon
  • Lorna Bleach (ongoing), 'Symbolism and sources in the Old French Partonopeu de Blois'
  • Joanne Young (2010) 'A literary analysis of Aimon de Varennes' Florimont'
  • Catherine Hanley (2002), 'The portrayal of war in Old French literature c.1150-1270'



  • FRE367/368: Le Rire gaulois