Before the technology of print, every book was unique. Two manuscripts of the "same" text could package and transmit that text very differently, depending on the choices made by scribes, compilers, translators, annotators, and decorators. Is it appropriate, Elizabeth Bryan asks, for us to read these books as products of a single author's consciousness? And if not, how do we read them?
In Collaborative Meaning in Medieval Scribal Culture, Bryan compares examples from the British Library Cotton Otho C.xiii manuscript of La3amon's Brut, the early thirteenth-century verse history that translated King Arthur into English for the first time. She discovers cultural attitudes that valued communal aspects of manuscript texts--for example, a view of the physical book as connecting all who read or even held it to each other.
The study is divided into two parts. Part one presents Early Middle English concepts of "enjoining" texts and explores the theoretical and methodological challenges they pose to present-day readers of scribally-produced texts. Part two conducts a detailed study of the multiple interpretations built into the manuscript text. Illustrations of manuscript pages accompany analysis, and the reader is invited to engage in interpreting the manuscript text.
Collaborative Meaning in Medieval Scribal Culture will be of interest to students and specialists in medieval chronicle histories, Middle English, Arthurian literature, and literary and textual theory.
Elizabeth J. Bryan is Associate Professor of English, Brown University.
In 1401, Christine de Pizan (1365–1430?), one of the most renowned and prolific woman writers of the Middle Ages, wrote a letter to the provost of Lille criticizing the highly popular and widely read Romance of the Rose for its blatant and unwarranted misogynistic depictions of women. The debate that ensued, over not only the merits of the treatise but also of the place of women in society, started Europe on the long path to gender parity. Pizan’s criticism sparked a continent-wide discussion of issues that is still alive today in disputes about art and morality, especially the civic responsibility of a writer or artist for the works he or she produces.
In Debate of the “Romance of the Rose,” David Hult collects, along with the debate documents themselves, letters, sermons, and excerpts from other works of Pizan, including one from City of Ladies—her major defense of women and their rights—that give context to this debate. Here, Pizan’s supporters and detractors are heard alongside her own formidable, protofeminist voice. The resulting volume affords a rare look at the way people read and thought about literature in the period immediately preceding the era of print.
The origins of the Chan-kuo Ts’e (Intrigues of the warring states) as an entity can be traced to a palace librarian at the Han Court, Liu Hsiang (76–6 BCE), who compiled and edited the pre-Han texts (c. 300–221 BCE) into a single volume and gave the collection a name. Thereafter, surviving manuscripts show the Chan-kuo Ts’e circulated during the Later Han Dynasty. Sometime during the years of decline and following the fall of the Han Dynasty, the Chan-kuo Ts’e began to acquire the aura of a wicked book, somewhat analogous to Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince. From time to time it was seen as one of a number of books that could unlock immense power in an era characterized both by widespread illiteracy and common belief in literacy and scholarship as the best if not the only vehicle to any goal. After 400 CE, there is no record of the text until it was reconstructed by an 11th-century scholar, Tseng Kung, who formed a model for critical circulation for the next nine centuries.
This volume presents selections and commentary by the premier Western translator and interpreter of the Chan-kuo Ts'e—ninety pieces singled out for their literary sophistication and sprightliness of conception. It also features more complete warring states narratives, the “romances”—persuasions of four of the best-known figures, Fan Chü, Chang Yi, Su Ch'in, and Ch'un-shen Chün, augmented by biographical material from the Shi-chi. This reader highlights both the nature of Chan-kuo Ts'e, an important pre-Han collection, and its considerable pleasures.
The appearance of David R. Slavitt's translation of Orlando Furioso ("Mad Orlando"), one of the great literary achievements of the Italian Renaissance, is a publishing event. With this lively new verse translation, Slavitt introduces readers to Ariosto's now neglected masterpiece - a poem whose impact on Western literature can scarcely be exaggerated. Slavitt's translation captures the energy, comedy, and great fun of Ariosto's Italian.
Chretien de Troyes was France's great medieval poet—inventor of the genre of courtly romance and popularizer of the Arthurian legend. The forty-four surviving manuscripts of his work (ten of them illuminated) pose a number of questions about who used these books and in what way. In Sealed in Parchment, Sandra Hindman scrutinizes both text and images to reveal what the manuscripts can tell us about medieval society and politics.
This volume offers the complete text of a poem which, although an acknowledged masterpiece of medieval literature, makes abnormal demands upon the reader by reason of its subtle exploitation both of a difficult dialect of Middle English and of the special idiom of alliterative verse. There is no short cut through the difficulties, but this edition is designed to enable the modern reader to reach a sensitive first-hand understanding of the text as the only basis for valid literary judgement.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late fourteenth-century Middle English alliterative romance outlining an adventure of Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. In this poem, Sir Gawain accepts a challenge from a mysterious green warrior. In a struggle to uphold his oath along this quest, Gawain demonstrates chivalry, loyalty, and honor. This new verse translation of the most popular and enduring fourteenth century romance to survive to the present offers students an accessible way of approaching the literature of medieval England without losing the flavor of the original writing. The language of Sir Gawain presents considerable problems to present-day readers as it is written in the West Midlands dialect before English became standardized. With a foreword by David Donoghue, the close verse translation includes facing pages of the original fourteenth-century text and its modern translation.
The adventures and challenges of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew and a knight at the Round Table, including his duel with the mysterious Green Knight, are among the oldest and best known of Arthurian stories. Here the distinguished author and poet John Gardner has captured the humor, elegance, and richness of the original Middle English in flowing modern verse translations of this literary masterpiece. Besides the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this edition includes two allegorical poems, “Purity” and “Patience”; the beautiful dream allegory “Pearl”; and the miracle story “Saint Erkenwald,” all attributed to the same anonymous poet, a contemporary of Chaucer and an artist of the first rank.
“Mr. Gardner has translated into modern English and edited a text of these five poems that could hardly be improved. . . . The entire work is preceded by a very fine and complete general introduction and a critical commentary on each poem.”—Library Journal
Trade and Romance
Michael Murrin University of Chicago Press, 2013 Library of Congress PN682.O75M87 2013 | Dewey Decimal 809.9332
In Trade and Romance, Michael Murrin examines the complex relations between the expansion of trade in Asia and the production of heroic romance in Europe from the second half of the thirteenth century through the late seventeenth century. He shows how these tales of romance, ostensibly meant for the aristocracy, were important to the growing mercantile class as a way to gauge their own experiences in traveling to and trading in these exotic locales. Murrin also looks at the role that growing knowledge of geography played in the writing of the creative literature of the period, tracking how accurate, or inaccurate, these writers were in depicting far-flung destinations, from Iran and the Caspian Sea all the way to the Pacific.
With reference to an impressive range of major works in several languages—including the works of Marco Polo, Geoffrey Chaucer, Matteo Maria Boiardo, Luís de Camões, Fernão Mendes Pinto, Edmund Spenser, John Milton, and more—Murrin tracks numerous accounts by traders and merchants through the literature, first on the Silk Road, beginning in the mid-thirteenth century; then on the water route to India, Japan, and China via the Cape of Good Hope; and, finally, the overland route through Siberia to Beijing. All of these routes, originally used to exchange commodities, quickly became paths to knowledge as well, enabling information to pass, if sometimes vaguely and intermittently, between Europe and the Far East. These new tales of distant shores fired the imagination of Europe and made their way, with surprising accuracy, as Murrin shows, into the poetry of the period.