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“She was busy writing rondeaux […] which was not good for her”

“She was busy writing rondeaux […] which was not good for her”

Princess Margaret of Scotland (d. 1445)

PART 1 (and part 2)

In our forthcoming METS edition, Six Scottish Pieces: Courtly and Chivalric Poems, Including Lyndsay’s ‘Squyer Meldrum’, Rhiannon Purdie (University of St Andrews) and I bring together six Older Scots poems that reflect on two of the most significant themes of Older Scots literature: Sovereignty — both of the nation and individual — and Good Governance — how best to rule the public realm and the private body of the self. Over the coming months we’ll write about each one, beginning here with a Complaint for the death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland.

Princess Margaret was the eldest daughter of James I of Scotland, author of The Kingis Quair. She was (unhappily) married at the age of eleven to the French dauphin Louis (later Louis XI). She died aged only twenty on 16 August 1445, and at the subsequent inquest into her death, extremely interesting information was revealed about her wider literary activities.

Margaret’s entry to Tours on the occasion of her marriage. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 93r

The dauphin’s chamberlain suggested that Margaret had fallen ill through lack of sleep, caused by the long hours she spent each night writing rondeaux and ballades:

the King asked him what caused this illness and he replied that it came from a lack of sleep, as the doctors had said […] and often she was busy writing rondeaux, such that she sometimes made twelve in a day, which was not good for her.

To date, no poetic compositions by Margaret are known to survive and it is possible that those poems reportedly written by Margaret were lost when Louis XI ordered the destruction of his wife’s papers shortly after her death. However, it is also possible that Margaret’s work survives without attribution alongside the known work of her female attendants and others in her literary circle. Poetry by two of the women named in the inquest as Margaret’s fellow writers (Jeanne Filleul and Marguerite de Salignac) survives alongside verse by other contemporary royal and aristocratic French women and their attendants in a series of fifteenth-century French manuscript anthologies and one early sixteenth-century printed collection where it appears in named form and anonymously. That the work of these women survives both in named and anonymous form lends hope to the idea that verse by Margaret might also survive in anonymous form, perhaps in the same manuscript and printed anthologies.

As well as writing verse, Princess Margaret also owned a number of books. I have written elsewhere about the likelihood of Margaret’s having read the recently composed French romance Cleriadus et Meliadice (c. 1440–44), Wingfield, Emily. “‘And He, That Did it Out of French Translait’: Cleriadus in France, England and Scotland, c. 1440–1550.” Neophilologus 95.4 (Oct. 2011): 64960. Available online at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11061-010-9239-8. which her lady-in-waiting, Prégente de Mélun, borrowed from Marie de Clèves, the wife of Charles d’Orléans, and she is also known to have had a chest (kept by another lady-in-waiting, Annette de Cuise) which contained “un livre qui parle d’amours, et de chansons et ballades, et aucunes lettres d’estat” (a book about love, with songs and ballads, and other letters of estate).  In addition, she owned a verse paraphrase of the Book of Job, Les Vigiles des Morts, written by Pierre de Nesson, the uncle of another poet and female attendant in Margaret’s circle (Jamette de Nesson), and we know too that she gave a richly decorated book of hours to one Abbot Nicolas Godard when she commissioned the founding of a chapel at Saint-Laon in Thouars, where she had hoped to be buried.

Recueil d’Arras, fol. 8, Bibliothèque municipale d’Arras

Margaret’s death appears to have inspired an outpouring of literary grief and five complaints about her — four in French and one in Scots (edited for METS) — are extant.

1. The first poem about her death was written by the French court poet, Blosseville, and appears (in Paris, BnF, 9223, fols 65v–66) alongside verse by other members of Margaret’s courtly circle.

2. The next set of memorial verses concerning Margaret survives at the end of a book of hours, commissioned by Margaret’s sister, Isabella, the duchess of Brittany (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS lat. 1369 (p. 446)). Four stanzas in the voice of the deceased dauphine are framed by two initial stanzas addressing the Virgin Mary and describing Margaret’s consciousness of her impending death, and a concluding stanza in which the writer prays for the redemption of his/her own soul. In the intervening stanzas the dauphine is imagined as bidding farewell to those she knew.

3. The next anonymous French text, known as La Complainte pour la mort de Madame Marguerite d’Escosse, daulphine de Viennoys (“Lament on the death of Madame Margaret of Scotland, dauphine of Vienne”), survives in Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal 3523 (pp. 461–73), The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 71.E.49 (fols 335r –40v) and Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 1952 (fols 52r–61r). It comprises thirty-six stanzas, each of ten octosyllabic lines, and the poem as a whole is divided into two halves. In the first half, the speaker requests that God make the natural world weep with him and requests the same of the French and Scottish royal houses. He then proceeds to document Margaret’s virtues before crying out against Nature and Death itself. In the second half of the poem the voice of reason counsels the previous speaker to accept the inevitability of death rather than rail against it and reminds him that God did not spare even his own son from death.

The Arsenal manuscript contains a significant body of verse by the French poet, Alain Chartier. There survives a story — later depicted visually in a pre-Raphaelite painting by Edmund Blair Leighton — in which Margaret was said to have kissed the sleeping poet; when asked why she kissed Chartier, Margaret reportedly replied, ‘I did not kiss the man, but the precious mouth which issued so many excellent words and virtuous lines.’ Although the story is most probably apocryphal — Margaret was very young at the time of Chartier’s visit to Scotland and he was dead by the time of her arrival in France — it does reflect both Margaret’s known association with poets who also served in official capacities at the French court and the shared material contexts of the Complainte and Chartier’s works.

Margaret of Scotland and Alain Chartier, Edmund Blair Leighton, 1903

4. In its third (and latest) manuscript witness, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 1952, the Complainte pour la mort de Madame Marguerite d’Escosse is prefaced by another, hitherto unknown and therefore unpublished, Complaincte de feue ma dame Marguerite descosse daulphine de viennoys faicte a chaalon en champaigne pour son piteux trespassement (“Lament for my late lady Marguerite of Scotland, dauphine of Vienne, written at Châlons in Champagne for her sad passing”) (fols 40r–52r). Comprising forty-five mainly ten-line stanzas, and written in the elaborate rhyming style favoured by the Grands Rhétoriqueurs, such as Jean Marot and Jehan d’Auton (e.g., “Hee, Dieu! quel perte / Nous est ouverte / Et descouverte, / Durement verte”; “Ah, God! What a loss / is presented to us / and revealed, / cruelly unripe” (fol. 41v)), the poem anticipates the sentiments of the better-known Complainte in its call for universal mourning, outcry against Death, and its extended praise for and cataloguing of the princess’ virtues and physical beauty. I will be discussing these texts in further detail in a forthcoming monograph on the literary texts associated with Scotland’s royal women in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The seemingly genuine expressions of grief articulated in this poem’s concluding stanzas and the poem’s title would suggest that it was composed very soon after Margaret’s death, in Châlons, perhaps by a member of her courtly and literary circle, and the same might well be true of the first Complainte — and its Scots translation. We know that Margaret was associated throughout her life with court administrators and servants who combined their day-to-day activities with the production of verse. As such, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that those same courtiers were prompted to express their grief for Margaret’s death in a medium they shared with her on an apparently daily basis.

In the second part of this blog, I discuss the Scottish translation. I demonstrate how it parallels and anticipates literary traditions better known from fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Scottish literature and how it accords thematically with the far broader Scottish tradition of advice on personal and public governance.

PART 2

by Dr Emily Wingfield

University of Birmingham

The Play’s the Thing

Brueghel’s Children Games (1559), now at Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna

In his painting, Children’s Games (1559), Flemish artist Peter Bruegel the Elder, famous for his works depicting the popular, ludic world of peasants, illustrated at least eighty different games that children played during the sixteenth century. Most of the games Bruegel portrayed in the picture involve toys and physical games, such as dice, knucklebones, dolls, marbles, balls, and hoops. However, many of the games depicted in the picture were not objects, but rather types of mental games, or role-playing activities, including mock sacraments (wedding, baptism, and Holy Mass), “Dethroning the King,” and, a personal favorite, “the Pope’s Seat” (wherein youths hoisted one of their comrade up on their shoulders, perhaps crowning him as a mock pontiff). Bruegel’s catalogue of children’s toys, although executed for moral reasons, is the pictorial equivalent of the French writer Rabelais’s listing of 217 games, most of them likewise involving mind games and mimicry, in his Gargantua, written some fifteen years before.

Both Bruegel and Rabelais, therefore, shared a broad conception of what games and gaming objects were. As can be seen with its subtitle, Playthings in Early Modernity: Party Games, Word Games, Mind Games, the inaugural tome of the Medieval Institute Press’s series “Ludic Cultures, 1100-1700,” similarly formulates a far-reaching and diverse definition of play and games. In her introduction to the volume, Alison Levy, the editor, uses the term “plaything” to encompass all sorts of objects, not only the more familiar and timeless board games, dice, and decks of cards but also less tangible things such as tricks and rumors. People, too, are included in this expansive definition since counts players, whether gamblers, dinner guests, or dance partners as playthings, each a theme from the fifteen essays in the volume.

The volume draws inspiration from the work of the cultural historian, Johan Huizinga, known mostly for his masterpiece, The Autumn of the Middle Ages (1919), a book that opened the doors to the serious study of late medieval culture that scholars of his generation had passed over in favor of political and diplomatic history. However, Playthings in Early Modernity draws on his more philosophical work, Homo Ludens (1938) in which Huizinga found elements of play in every aspect of human society (although he focused mostly on the West), including areas not normally associated with play such as war, law, and philosophy. Levy alludes to Huizinga’s influence when she writes that play was more than just “a pastime, a leisurely pursuit, but also a pivotal way of life, a strategic psychosocial endeavor.”

Giuseppe Maria Mitelli’s print, Il Giocatore (Bologna, 1675)

The fifteen essays in the volume expand on the approach in Levy’s introduction. They range temporally from the fourteen to the eighteen century, and span the globe from the Iberian Peninsula to Vijayangara Empire in India. Moreover, they develop her idea of the plaything. Several of the essays investigate the materiality of games— the geographical depictions on Elizabethan playing cards, the ambiguous morality of the games sheets of seventeenth-century Bolognese artist, Giuseppe Maria Mitelli, and the spatial memorization necessary to play many of the games found in Ascanio de’ Mori’s Giuoco piacevole (1575).  Other essays focus on the mental aspect of games that often involve trickery and deceit. In this vein there are essays on the practical joke that Machiavelli and his friend Francesco Guicciardini played on his hapless host in the small Emilian town of Carpi and the game of cat and mouse that crypto-Jews (conversos) played against their captors in the prisons of the Spanish Inquisition at Cuenca.

The collection, as a whole, breaks new ground by exploring the concept of plaything and by extending it to different modes of play, different times, and different places. Each of the essays emphasized the materiality of games, whether physical or mental. However, they never lose sight that playthings involved the performance of human actors.

by

John M. Hunt, Utah Valley University and Villa I Tatti

Drolleries and the Juvenilia of the Harley 2253 Scribe

As I worked on editing and translating the verse and prose contents of MS Harley 2253, a recurring pleasure and intrigue rested in trying to spot the literary tricks of a playful and instructive scribe. He certainly shows a penchant for linking poems of disparate types by finding (or adding) verbal repetitions to endings and beginnings. He also likes to juxtapose wryly matched items by setting them side by side on the page. And he loves puns and multilingual jokes. We can’t really know why he toyed with these maneuvers, but, in reading Harley 2253 straight through, we can discover and enjoy them. He may have been a professional entertainer, or simply a schoolmaster, or a secular chaplain for a household, or mainly just a witty lawyer. Very likely, he was a charismatic confection of all these types.

Some delightful instances of his youthful wit may be found in another of his manuscripts, MS Harley 273, where his presence may be dated some twenty to thirty years before his hand and mind began to create the marvelous Harley 2253 project. Harley 273 shows us that he worked with an older scribe and that, together, they not only made sure that the young scribe learned his clerical lessons, but they also shared lighter moments, sometimes drawing droll animal heads on initial letters or funny hybrid creatures in the margins.

Harley 273 is, like Harley 2253, available in color facsimile at the British Library Catalogue, Digitised Manuscripts site: www.bl.uk/manuscripts/, s.vv. “Harley MS 273” and “Harley MS 2253.” I recommend that you go there and see for yourself, for example, the funny creature with rooster feet, bunny ears, camel hump, and a ruff on folio 58rb, the cowled critters on folios 59rb and 95va, and the woman’s head with a hairnet on folio 102vb. These were all made, I think, by the Harley Scribe in his youth.

A listing of the doodles and drolleries that attach to the juvenile oeuvre of the Harley Scribe can be found in my recent article, “The Harley Scribe’s Early Career: New Evidence of a Scribal Partnership in MS Harley 273,” The Journal of the Early Book Society 19 (2016): 1-30. Although I don’t reproduce these doodles and drawings in the article, it would be wonderful for this hidden dimension of the famous Harley Scribe to become more widely known. Therefore, I urge you to go to the digitized facsimile and view the artistic creativity enjoyed in a pedagogical scriptorium, circa 1314-15. Here was an atmosphere of convivial learning that nurtured the literate playfulness of the Harley Scribe.

I also urge you to delve into the incomparable Harley Lyrics, and especially the rich world that exists in and beyond them when they’re read amid the unusual strategies of the Harley Scribe. Quite deservedly, he’s now seen as a major personality in the cultural history of Middle English literature. A new generation of Harley studies—seeing the manuscript as a whole artifact and the product of an artful compiler—promises to disclose much that we didn’t know before about his literary tricks and games.

by Susanna Fein, Kent State University

Happy St. Valentine’s Day with a Q&A with Chaucer, LVGC

Again this year we, Medieval Institute Publications, and Middle English Text Series in Rochester are joining forces to countdown to LGVC’s wonderful #WhanThatAprilleDay celebration! To begin our countdown and a Valentine to all our readers, we bring our interview with LGVC himself!

Are there any specific rewritings of your works you would recommend?
Patience Agbabi’s Telling Tales ys a brilliant, sharp, exuberant remix of my Tales of Caunterburye. Thys booke of poemes doth go tale for tale, genre for genre. Agbabi’s verse doth honor my werke and yet steppe biyond yt ynto newe places and tymes. As Ich am tryinge to do wyth my (unfinisshed, ARGH!) tales, Telling Tales doth capture everich mood from raunchinesse to anger to love to hearte-breake and biyond. Agbabi’s Telling Tales ys pure amazingenesse and sholde be yn everiche course ytaught. And ther are manye othir wondirful riffs and adaptaciouns of my Tales, swich as the booke of Kim Zarins yclept Sometimes We Tell The Truth, the which ys a YA novel yn which the Caunterbury pilgrims are nowe studentes on a scole trippe.

As you know, METS was founded by Russell Peck, a devotee of your famous frenemy, John Gower. Last year, Valentine’s Day sparked a war between “Team Chaucer” and “Team Gower.” What would you say to rally your troops?
Doth eny oon reallye enjoye the poesye of Gower? Hys octosyllabiques are lyke a nurserye rhyme recited yn a slow-movinge car on a road full of potte-holes: both boringe and bumpye. Eny thinge ye kan ymagine that ys fun, ynterestinge, engaginge, cool: the poetry of Gower doth flee from thos thinges. Gower ys lyke the opposite of Hamilton. Gower gave the ordir to cancel Fyreflye. Gower ys responsible for everye disappointinge album made by an otherwyse good bande. Gower ys the literarye equivalent of goinge to the refrigerator aftir getting home and ye are hungrye but the onlye thinge yn the refrigerator ys ketchup packets and questionable cheese. Gower ys the Batman of being tedious. Ich do dare Gower supporteres to come up wyth sum manner of social media stunt to defend their belovid Gower on Whan That Aprille Daye; that ys, yf thei trewelye enjoye hys writinges. (All respect to the yncredible and admirable Russell Peck, but Ich must speke the trouthe concerninge Gower or elles falsen som of my mateer.)

Finish this statement (because you never finish anything): If I were to write a poem about Valentine’s Day today, it would feature…
…a duck who ys loneli and doth lyve in a solitarye duck hermitage. He hath a powerful duck sword but he dareth nat take yt from the stone monolith yn which yt hath been placid. The duck thinketh alwayes upon hys lost love. Oon daye, a raven doth come to the duck and saye… [fragment endeth]

If you had to pick, which METS edition would you say is your favorite?
The METS edicioun of the Guyde to the Galaxye For Hitch-Hikeres Ywrit ys my favourite. Nat onlye ys thys earlye thirteenth centurye storye of Arthur de Dent and hys friend Oxenford Prefect a wondirful tale of journeyinge and mirthe, but the METS texte doth restore several sequences lost yn the EETS edicioun. To yive an ensaumple, yn the original EETS edicioun the cavils of the editours dyd leade to the omissioun of several keye verses from the sequence yn which the Engine of Endless Impossibilitye ys described, the which are yncluded by the METS edicioun. And eke the METS edicioun doth ynclude al of the poesye of the Vosgons yn both the original Vosgon and yn the thirteenth centurye Englisshe translacioun. Trewelye, thys shal be the standard edicioun of the Guyde to the Galaxye For Hitch-Hikeres Ywrit for yeares to come and shal leade manye a student to thys belovid and classique otherworlde journey text that ynspired Dante. Thankes to METS, manye a reader shal learne the good sentence of ‘Panique nat.’

You’ve been tweeting frequently about current events and you’ve mentioned HEART a few times. Could you explain what HEART means and why it’s as important as STEM?
STEM ys a wondirful coinage and a worde of great powir. Yt doth combyne a chorus of relatid approaches and fieldes ynto an easilye-wieldable phrase. We neede swich a worde of great powir for the arts of language and societye as well. Ich have tried to use the litel terme HEART: Humanityes, Ethiques, Artes, Rhetorique, and Teachinge. Lyke STEM, thes technologies are vital for the yeares to come, vital for the planet, vital for ower lyves and societye. Ynnovacioun kan, sholde, and must come from these technologyes of HEART that kan fynde bettir and more capacious wayes of livinge, communicatinge, creating, ymagininge, and beinge togethir.

Given the “crisis in the humanities,” and current threats to its national funding, what can we do to keep these vital projects alive and support HEART? On social media and in action?
Showe love. Be proude. Be loud. Yt nys nat onlye the solitarye werke of the scoler yn the archive, nor the excellent laurels of revered organizaciouns, nor the golden reviewe of an acclaimed booke — thogh al thes thinges be ful honorable and sustayninge and necessarye, yt ys the shewinge of love yn practice, yn teachinge, and yn readinge, and yn sharinge ower werke wyth the worlde, that doth moost clearlye and loudlye proclayme the ymportance of the beate of HEART. Be nat humble. Be nat quiet. Get out ther and showe how ymportant the werke that ye do kan be.

By Chaucer Doth Tweet

Follow the action with these hashtags:

#WhanThatAprilleDay17
#METSaprille – Our countdown to April 1st!

Q&A with Jane Toswell on her Today’s Medieval University

So, what features of the modern university are actually medieval?
Well, not much really: the structure, the ceremonies, the relative autonomy, the system of decision-making, the faculties, the curriculum, the architecture, the symbols and costumes, the roundly pragmatic approach to learning.  Okay, so actually an enormous amount.

Why don’t I already know this?
People who talk about the university today tend to fix its origin point in Western Europe, especially in Germany, with the Humboldtian development of two ideas: the university as the home of the genius professor, the brilliant researcher surrounded by hordes of students and junior colleagues running a massive and original project; and the idea that the university espouses a process of learning, a dialectic engagement that takes the individual student from ignorance to a system or style of learning and to knowledge of one discipline or subject on a deep and substantial level.  The first notion, that of the genius faculty member, probably does belong more to the nineteenth century than to the Middle Ages (though I could contest that too), but the second one, usually seen as the way in which the university system re-founded and reorganized itself, is actually a profoundly medieval notion taken from the earliest universities.

What parts of the modern university are completely medieval?
The physical structure of many modern universities reflects the medieval ecclesiastical quadrangle, the buildings set in a square, with staircases at regular intervals corralling the students into up-and-down movement for their living quarters and study space.  The large green space in the centre of the modern quad reflects the medieval cloisters, and gives students an outlet, a place to play games and relax.  When they get themselves into trouble with other students or with the inhabitants of the town or city, they immediately invoke the university’s code of conduct or other rules about its autonomy and right to police its own.  That too, reflects the medieval benefit of clergy, and all universities today fiercely defend their right to discipline their own students and faculty, their autonomy from oversight.  The organization of most universities into faculties, and the system for approving curriculum, the system of student aid,  fundraising events and efforts, the honorary doctorate, even the division between professional schools (some of them graduate schools) and the more general undergraduate program: all these elements are completely medieval.

 What parts of the modern university seem medieval, but are a kind of re-created medieval?
That would include many, though not all, of the ceremonies.  The inception ceremony, when a student is accepted at a university, survives only in a few places today, but the graduation ceremony (where the students steps forward, or in the Middle Ages upwards onto the dais of the masters) remains.  The colourful regalia of today is a kind of recreated medieval element, as in the original medieval universities of the twelfth century the students and masters would have worn black gowns resembling the undergraduate robes of today, almost always with a cap of some kind.  Undergraduates today generally do not have to debate and argue in public venues in order to win their degrees, but the concept of winning the degree by defending one’s written work still lives today with thesis degrees (the doctorate in particular).

What is this book really about?
The book explores the medieval foundations of the modern university, first in Bologna in 1098 and Paris shortly thereafter, perhaps earlier in Salerno with the first medical school, and slightly later in Oxford.  It analyses the liturgy and ritual, the structure, and the curriculum that a medieval student would have pursued and a medieval master would have attempted to instill.  And it essentially points out the advantages and disadvantages of this highly autonomous and yet highly connected system of learning; universities generally had charters from both ecclesiastical and secular authorities, and very much played one off against the other in order to keep their own privacy and independence intact.

By M.J. Toswell

Mary of Nemmegen: Faustian Witchcraft or a Curious Saint’s Legend?

The importance of artistic connections between England and the Low Countries in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries has long been well recognized by scholars. This has meant considerable attention to the influence of the work of Netherlands artists and the import trade in their work. Netherlands musicians’ compositions also were for a time regarded as the most perfect models for imitation or inspiration in Britain and across the Continent. Some today still insist that the high point of Western music was achieved in the perfection of the compositions of Josquin Des Prez, and that the history of this art thereafter was a period of decline from which it has never recovered. In literature and drama the Low Countries connection was significant but less influential across the Channel, though Everyman, translated from the Dutch Elckerlijc, is regarded as a unique “masterpiece” which surpasses the artistry of the original. Nevertheless, attention to other translations, and to book production bringing Low Countries’ work to England, is well worth our study. This observation applies in the case of Mary of Nemmegen (published c.1518), adapted from the Middle Dutch play Mariken van Nieumeghen and offered to English readers in an anonymous translation from the press of the Antwerp printer Jan van Doesborch. Both texts, along with a rendering into modern English of the Dutch drama, are now offered in a new edition prepared in collaboration with Martin Walsh and Ton Broos. This edition has been published by Medieval Institute Publications.

Mary of Nemmegen is worth our attention for a number of reasons. Most prominent, however, are the parallels with the Dr. Faustus legend and its presentation of the occult and witchcraft. Both Mariken, who became Mary in the English adaptation, and Faustus had their inception in approximately the same historical moment, a time when there was an unusual interest in magic and a rising hysteria about witches.See Jeffrey Burton Russell,Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1972), who concludes his very useful study with the comment that witchcraft in the late Middle Ages was “the first stage of a long period of witch delusion” and “in another sense . . . a manifestation of the innate and perennial darkness of the human soul” (289). Mariken van Nieumeghen may be dated in the earliest decades of the sixteenth century, with Willem Vorsterman’s edition (but not the direct source used by the English translator) issued in c.1515. A “Faustus junior” seems to have been first noticed as “the chief of necromancers, astrologer” and practitioner of other forms of black magic, albeit a fraud, by the Abbot Trithemius as early as 1507, while in 1509 “Johan Faust” was granted a bachelor of divinity degree from the University of Heidelberg.See E. M. Butler, The Myth of the Magus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1948), 122, and Philip Mason Palmer and Robert Pattison More, The Sources of the Faust Tradition (rpt. New York: Haskell House, 1965), 84, 86–87. In the mid-sixteenth century Erfurt Chronicle, “Faust” is quoted as saying that he cannot retract the pledge he has made in a pact with the Devil written out in his own blood (“mit meinem eigenen blut gegen dem Teufel verscrieben”) “to be forever his, with body and soul.”Ibid., 117. The pact is repeated in the story of Faustus as trickster and magician in the English Faustbook used by Christopher Marlowe, in whose play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus it is identified as a binding “gift of deed.”Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, ed. David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993), 141 (A-text 2.1.60) and 142–43. For the “certain Articles” described in the English Faustbook, Marlowe’s presumed source, see P. F. Gent., trans., The Historie of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus, ed. William Rose (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1963), 68. Mary too makes an agreement with the Devil, though to be sure in her case it does not involve a written document. Her agreement with Satan meant that she would abandon her name and adopt “Emmekin.” She was not to make the sign of the cross, and the trajectory of her life thereafter turns her away from her devotion to the Virgin in favor of a life of dissolution, frivolity, and accessory to crime. Ultimately she will be forced to register deep disappointment with her life. Faustus also will look back on his life, much of it wasted in idle trickery, as futile, for which he falls into existential despair, which in Søren Kierkegaard’s terminology is the sickness unto death.For an excellent discussion of despair in the period under discussion, see Susan Snyder, “The Left Hand of God: Despair in Medieval and Renaissance Tradition,” Studies in the Renaissance 12 (1965): 18–59. Predictably, his life ends in damnation when the “jaws of hell” open up to receive him, perhaps literally interpreted in Marlowe’s drama as an actual stage prop, a hell mouth.Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, 282 (B-text, 5.2.120), and the editors’ note.

Mary/Emmekin also has reason to despair, but in contrast to Faustus’s fate is able to break her bondage to the Devil. Like Faustus, she had subordinated her will to him and become (to borrow the words of a later commentator on witchcraft) the Devil’s “owne instrument.”William Perkins, A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft (Cambridge, 1608), 61. Upon her return to Nemmegen after a dissolute life of crime as the Satan’s accomplice in Antwerp, only by chance or providence is she was able to come to a full realization of the dark depths into which she has sunk, having given herself body and soul to her seducer, the Devil. To this she life had fallen and continued thus for many years following her initial crisis when she was shamed and accused of being a harlot by her aunt, weakened so as to be vulnerable to the Devil’s entrapment of her. No elaborate conjuring had been necessary, but only, in her loss of moral direction, by simply naming the Devil she made him appear materially before her.This is a motif in folklore, as cited by Douglas Gray, Essays on Medieval English Popular Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 30. For the special vulnerability of the “holiest virgins and girls” to such entrapment, see the Malleus Maleficarum 2:93D (trans. Christopher S. Mackay, The Hammer of Witches [Cambridge: Cambridge Univeristy Press, 2009], 277). Idle words have power. But in spite of the many years that followed of servitude to Satan, sunk deeply in disobedience to the Powers of the Good, she will be able to rebel against her slavery and emerge from her darkness of soul. From her new perspective, she will be able to look back on her life with full realization of her sexual, moral, and ideological failures. In this she will find “hope beyond hopelessness” (again Kierkegaard’s phrasing) as she sets out to activate the process that eventually rescues her from the permanent darkness of damnation, contrary to the threat of the pit which was to be Faustus’s inheritance.

Upon her return to Nemmegen, Mary/Emmekin, witnessing the annual wagon play, a morality that mirrors her own condition,For the text of the wagon play see Mariken van Nieumeghen, where it has the title Masscheroen. It is not provided in the English text. experiences conversion and is brought to tears, which are a sign of contrition, a mark of inward spiritual cleansing. Mary’s weeping places her in direct contrast to Marlowe’s Faustus, who in his despair is unable to weep, for he is not able thus to free himself from his enslavement to evil. “[T]he devil draws in my tears. . . ,” he laments, unable to lift up his hands to heaven, unable because, he cries, the demonic powers “hold them” fast.Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, ed. Bevington and Rasmussen, 193 (A-text, 5.2.31–34). But if he is not able to free himself from his despair at his condition by his own act, neither can Mary emerge from despair by herself after her conversion experience: she requires the rites of the Church.

Her apostasy and crime, worst of all in sleeping with the Devil (a capital offense), has been so heinous that no ordinary priest or even bishop can give her absolution. Not even the bishop of Cologne can help her. She must go as a pilgrim seeking forgiveness to the Pope, who gives her as her penance heavy rings to wear on her arms and neck. From these she is only released after long years of suffering and prayer in a convent for fallen women at Maastrich. Her story of miraculous victory over the world, the flesh, and the Devil therefore is likened to a saint’s biography, comparable to the life of Theophilus of Adana. Theophilus likewise had made an agreement with the Devil but ultimately was penitent and so was to be remembered in the Golden Legend.See Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, trans. William Granger Ryan, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 2:157.

Mary of Nemmegen thus has the marks of a saint’s legend that could have found its place in such collections as Osbern Bokenham’s Legendys of Hooly Wummen, except that no other claim of Mary’s existence exists aside from the weak assertion in the text that her story is genuine. There is no documentary evidence for a convent of Mary Magdalen at Maastrich, and there are no remains of the rings allegedly venerated there, rings that had been removed from Mary by angelic visitors who had come to her in a vision. Mary of Nemmegen hence may be described as a most curious saint’s legend indeed, a fictional life of a woman who had become a witch in service to the Devil during the high season of the witch cult in Europe but who became a recipient of the holy.

To be sure, there is much more that merits our attention, including Satan’s mastery of magic and his claim to have vast knowledge to communicate to the uneducated and virginal Mary — but he will not teach her to practice necromancy, since this would allow her to have power over him. These are not entirely the black arts but include such skills as the ability to display rhetoric, a core humanistic interest among the Rederijkerskamers (Chambers of Rhetoric) of the Low Countries that were responsible for commissioning the Dutch Mariken. We do find, even in this time when ideas and practices could be dangerous, that the line between the forbidden and the accepted, as least in certain circles if not in others, could be quite blurred. Thus Mary’s uncle Ghysbryche, a priest, can possess a book of magic with which he can control the Devil, who threatens them as they set out like pilgrims first to Cologne and then to Rome. In one of the most important woodcuts in  Mary of Nemmegen her uncle also holds a monstrance with the eucharistic Host before him as a protection against a most ugly Devil, a Devil now in his own deformed and animalistic shape, who is literally bouncing off a pillar in his desire to attack and presumably kill the penitent Mary. Ghysbryche’s book has the opposite effect from Faustus’s blasphemous conjuring book, but it is nevertheless a conjuring book, if of a different and benign sort. His conjuring as a means of power over the Devil and evil is validated, the affirmation of white magic in the service of the Good.

By Clifford Davidson
The Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University

Q&A with Clare Monagle on her The Scholastic Project

Why did you decide to write another book on medieval theology?
I have two core reasons for writing The Scholastic Project. The first is that I wanted to provide an accessible introduction to medieval Christian theology, particularly that which we call scholastic theology. This term refers to the elite ‘high’ theology of Thomas Aquinas or Duns Scotus, for example, which emerges from the universities of medieval Europe. In my experience, a number of medievalists are very nervous about teaching or reading scholastic theology, or in sharing it with their students. There is good reason for this, the texts are really technical and very difficult, and require a lot of contextualisation for their meaning to become apparent. When we don’t teach scholastic theology, however, as part of undergraduate courses, I think we ignore a really important source for understanding the history of the Latin west. Scholastic theology is an elite discourse that codifies Christian doctrine, and trains academics and administrators throughout the Middle Ages. They define what forms of Christianity constitute correct Christianity, and the line between orthodoxy and heresy. If we want to understand medieval European history, we need to come to grips with the ideas and impact of its intellectuals, as we would with any other period under consideration.

The second reason I wrote The Scholastic Project, is that I wanted the opportunity to think about scholastic theology, as a whole, as an intellectual system. A number of work in the field focuses upon the work of a particular thinker, or takes a snapshot of a certain University and a certain time. There are very good reasons for this. Bringing this material to light requires a lot of slow investigation and research, and the conveying the complexity of this theology just takes time. So, those of us who have worked in medieval intellectual history, tend to work from inside out. In order to make sense of our difficult sources, we embed ourselves in these texts, reconstructing them painstakingly so that they can make sense, and tell some sort of story in the present. I wanted to use the opportunity of The Scholastic Project to write a different sort of book, to present a type of bird’s eye view of three hundred years or so of theology. I wanted to see how it looked from that optic.

Why a Project?
It’s kind of a cheeky name, and a deliberate provocation. Firstly, in the humanities, when we talk of a project it is usually in relation to the Enlightenment. To speak of a scholastic project, then, might produce a type of cognitive dissonance. How could the medieval period, still understood broadly as an ‘Age of Faith’, be compared to the Enlightenment? How could these medieval thinkers, hell-bent on defending the Trinity or Transubstantiation, be spoken of in the same breath as Voltaire?

My answer is that medieval scholars and Enlightenment thinkers have some fundamental things in common. Both sets of thinkers claim access to reason, and argue that reason generates truth. And both sets of thinkers assume that the western masculine subject has the best access to that reason. My argument in this book is that this commonality, however self-evident it might seem, matters. Rather than just telling another story that has the Middle Ages and Modernity in juxtaposition, I wanted to look at what continuities there might be. And what I found was that both discourses, scholastic and enlightenment, share an appetite for universalising languages of liberation, while naturalising western masculinity as the default subject.

And as a ‘project’ that produces this default subject, I wanted to burrow back into scholastic theology to see how it does this. I wanted to look at some key moments when medieval intellectual talk about those who are other to Christian masculinity. In particular, I focused on scholasticism’s deployment of women, Jews and heretics as figures in theology. My question was, when a theologian discusses Jews, for example, what conceptual work are Jews doing in the theology that is unfolding. It is not just to ask what does Aquinas say about Jews? It is also to ask what his statements about Jews enable him to prove, what work they do within his overall intellectual ambitions?

What do you hope that readers will gain from reading your book?
For those who haven’t studied medieval theology before, I hope it encourages them to dig a bit deeper into the sources, as well as to follow up the very erudite scholarship out there that pertains to the field. The material is hard, but I hope I convince them that it is worth the effort.

I also hope that readers will develop a more nuanced idea of the relationship between intellectuals and authority in the Middle Ages. My students often tend to assume either that the intellectuals were under the thumb of the papacy. Or, having read about Abelard, they assume that they were all radicals engaged in a project of repudiating authority. Both stories are patently wrong. Like intellectuals today, medieval theologians were both complicit in the making of the ideological order, and they were also critics of it. They helped authorities to manufacture consent, but they also produced ideas that deeply challenged those same authorities.

Finally, I want to encourage readers to think about the status of others in the long history of the west. In doing this, I’m only standing on the shoulders of a great number of important scholars in our field, who have revolutionised medieval studies. These are scholars such as R.I. Moore, David Nirenberg, and Dyan Elliott, to name a very important few. This book is intended to supplement their types of projects, which I would characterise as understanding medieval society in its ideological contours.

By Clare Frances Monagle

Elizabeth Melick on Unusual Giants

“Now bigin ichil…” (Of Unusual Giants)

He hadde tuenti men strengthe,
And fourti fet of lengthe,
Thilke panim hede,
And four fet in the face,
Ymeten in the place,
And fiften in brede,
His nose was a fot and more,
His browe as brestles wore,
He that it seighe it sede
He loked lotheliche
And was swart as piche
Of him men might adrede.

The passage above is from the Middle English romance Roland and Vernagu, which I am currently editing for a volume of four linked Charlemagne romances. This particular passage occurs about halfway through the poem, and it introduces Vernagu, a Saracen giant who Roland, the Christian hero, must defeat. The description of Vernagu suggests that he is a fairly typical giant: forty feet tall, as strong as twenty men, with loathsome and bestial facial features.

In his introduction to Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen writes that the function of a giant is to “signif[y] those dangerous excesses of the flesh that the process of masculine embodiment produces in order to forbid; he functions at the same time to celebrate the pleasures of the body, to indulge in food and wine and sex.” As Cohen suggests, many of the giants found in Middle English romances are gargantuan, looming symbols of indulgence of physical pleasures. Perhaps the most salient example, the giant of Mount St. Michel in the Alliterative Morte Arthure, is entirely controlled by his fleshly impulses for sex and food. The initial description of Vernagu sets him up to be the same sort of foe for Roland as the giant of Mount St. Michel is for Arthur—his exaggerated size and strength represent both the formidable threat of the Saracen forces and the notion that Saracens are more susceptible to physical temptation than are Christians. Any audience member who is familiar with the common role of giants anticipates that at any moment, Vernagu will begin committing horrible acts of violence and destruction.

But Vernagu surprises us. He conforms to expectations of courtly behavior perfectly, seeming reluctant to cause any lasting damage to Charlemagne’s court or seriously harm any French knights. Rather than mauling or rending the knights who face him, Vernagu tucks them under his arm like dolls, removes them from the fighting area, and sets them down unharmed (aside from the considerable blow to their pride). Even more curious, when Vernagu finally faces Roland in combat, both man and giant have swords and fight as two knights of average stature would.

Vernagu again proves that he is an exceptional giant—or at least a highly irregular one—in the middle of the night, when he wakes to find that Roland has placed a stone pillow beneath his head. Moved by Roland’s kindness, he begins an earnest and insightful discussion of Christian theology with Roland. While not all giants found in Middle English literature are as violent or brutish as the giant of Mount St. Michel, most of them still have a tendency toward sensuality and wrath. In resisting any sort of bodily pleasure, even of food and drink, and exhibiting a highly rational and even intelligent mind, Vernagu certainly stands out from his fellow giants.

The poet’s decision to make Vernagu such an irregular giant is complicated further by the presence of another giant in the romance—Charlemagne himself.

Just forty lines before the poet introduces Vernagu, he offers a new description of Charlemagne, who has already been the focus of the poem thus far:

Tuenti fete he was o lengthe,
And al so of gret strengthe,
And of a stern sight.
Blac of here and rede of face,
Whare he com in ani place,
He was a douhti knight.

Charlemagne may be only half as tall as is Vernagu, but he is still a towering figure. His features are decidedly less frightening than are Vernagu’s, but Charlemagne’s size and coloring is still intimidating. The similarities between the two descriptions are striking; both list the height, breadth of face, strength, and skin color. In fact, because of the similarities between these two descriptions, nearly every time I search through the text for that first appearance of Vernagu, I initially mistake the description of Charlemagne for the one of Vernagu.

Why the Roland and Vernagu poet chose to make one of his heroes so similar to his villain is a question I cannot yet answer. As a modern reader, bothered by Charlemagne’s (fictionalized) conquest of Spain and forced conversion of the Saracens in this romance, I would like to think that the poet is suggesting that Charlemagne is as much of a monster as, well, an actual monster. However, knowing the historical context the way I do, I highly doubt this is the case. Medieval Christian readers tended to view Charlemagne as a hero and admired his conquest and conversion missions.

What I have learned from reading and re-reading Roland and Vernagu, along with other similar romances, is that we simply cannot make sweeping generalizations about the ways that Western Christians viewed peoples of other races, religions, and nationalities. Saracens—both giants and the more regular-sized ones—are portrayed in vastly different manners in various romances. While I think it’s certainly helpful to have a broad understanding of the way Saracens are depicted in Middle English literature, I also think that we should be considering romances featuring Saracens individually.  The portrayal of a Saracen as both a giant and intelligent is fairly uncommon in Middle English literature. (If any readers happen to know of other similar giants or examples of giants that will add to this discussion, please let me know!). As I work through my editing process and write the introductions to these texts, I hope to come up with some more concrete interpretations of this pair of giants.

For now, though, all I know is that these two giants are highly unusual.

Note on this blog:

In this post, I have honed in on a thematic element (difference in race and religion) that controls the plots of each of the romances that will be included in my edition. In future posts, I hope to offer reflections on my editing process, interesting facts about the manuscript witnesses, and any other insights I can offer.

Learn more about Middle English Text Series (METS)

By Elizabeth Meilck

Q&A with Richard Utz on Medievalism: A Manifesto

utzRichard Utz is Chair and Professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology and President of the International Society for the Study of Medievalism. He is the author of Literarischer Nominalismus im Spätmittelalter (1990) and Chaucer and the Discourse of German Philology (2002), and coeditor of Medievalism in the Modern World (with Tom Shippey, 1998) and of Medievalism: Key Critical Terms (with Elizabeth Emery, 2014). He is also the founding editor of Medievally Speaking, an open access review journal encouraging critical engagement with all manifestations of medieval culture in postmedieval times.

There are many recent books about medievalism. What’s different about yours?
The study of how the Middle Ages has been reinvented, repurposed, and reenacted in postmedieval times has become an established academic subject over the last 25 years. However, most book-length studies investigate one kind or genre of medievalism or the biography of a specific scholar: Louise D’Arcens’ Comic Medievalism (2014), for example, examines the role of humour in the reception of medieval culture across several centuries; Tison Pugh’s Queer Chivalry (2013) explores the history of white masculinity in Southern U.S. Literature; and Michelle Warren’s Creole Medievalism (2013) reveals editor and warrior scholar Joseph Bédier’s pro-colonial medievalist work. My own book wants to present a meta-perspective on the field of medievalism studies. Specifically, I would like to encourage colleagues to acknowledge, perhaps even embrace, the subjective and affective origins of our interest in the medieval past. Therefore, I took the unusual step of having my own parents featured on the book’s cover. Their and my own direct involvement in medievalist reenactment, games, and education are among the affective forces that have shaped many of my interests as a scholar.

Aren’t you worried about being accused of being a mere amateur or dilettante by embracing the personal, affective, and subjective?
No, quite the opposite! I think it’s an epistemological fallacy to believe that a scholar, the investigating subject, needs to be kept strictly separate from the scholar’s research, the subject under investigation. I believe with Norman Cantor (Inventing the Middle Ages, 1993) that all scholarship is, in the end, a form of autobiography and that the multitude of scholarly endeavors to recuperate the Middle Ages has only resulted in ever so many (subjective) reinventions of that time period. In the end, an amateur (from Latin amare, to love) or a dilettante (from Italian dilettare, to delight) is not so different from a scholar of the Middle Ages, who has simply sublimated his or her love for the medieval past into formal academic practices like editing, translation, or criticism. In my book I want to exemplify how a scholar’s open and conscious inclusion of personal connections will enhance, not hinder, our understanding of the medieval past.

How do you manage to infuse your research with your personal history?
In his Parler du Moyen Age (1980), Paul Zumthor said that it is a “delusion […] to speak of the past otherwise than on the basis of now.” Like Carolyn Dinshaw in How Soon Is Now (2013), I am putting Zumthor’s postulate into practice: After discussing some of the theoretical and historical aspects of medievalism, I present three concise cases studies that show how academic medievalists can produce research that includes their own personal history, reaches out, and gives back to the society that supports them. One of the cases studies exposes the dark side of medievalism in my native town of Amberg, Germany, where post-WW II open air festivals continued medievalist traditions originally created during the Weimar Republic and the Nazi regime. My second case study demonstrates how an early twentieth-century residence in my current hometown, Atlanta, GA, celebrates medieval chivalry and slavery as predecessors of Confederate values via medievalist architecture and craft. And my third case study encourages scholars to investigate numerous Christian traditions, rituals, and tenets as steady bridges between the medieval past and the present. All three of these examples illuminate the advantages of including our own current as well as previous reinventions of medieval culture when trying to understand the Middle Ages.

Why did you decide to write about these issues as a ‘manifesto’ and in the new Past Imperfect book series?
Well, I am trying to convince as many of my colleagues as possible to change their ways, and that’s why I chose this specific format and series. Since the late 19th century, medievalists (and many other humanities scholars) have been trying to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the general public, writing essays and books exclusively for each other. My modest proposal is to abandon this attitude and embrace the public humanities movement that wants to lower the drawbridge for the many lovers of medieval culture outside the academy to and to enter into a lively and mutually beneficial exchange. What I am proposing is rather revolutionary (hence: ‘manifesto’) , because I suggest we should not only interpret texts and artifacts for other specialists, but see it as our most noble task to render those texts and artifacts relevant to contemporary extra-academic audiences. Most academic publishers and book series editors would still prefer not to take on a project that might rub a good number of traditional medievalists the wrong way. Thus, I am glad Past Imperfect provides a platform for something like my long essai that is openly political in its intent and somewhat more ‘edgy’ in its tone. Just like the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies has done for more than 50 years, this new MIP book series promises a more open, democratic, and entrepreneurial engagement with the medieval past.

So are you proposing that all academic medievalists become medievalism-ists?
No. I realize that many colleagues will continue to investigate and write on what they consider the “real” Middle Ages. Many will defend an exclusively academic medieval studies within which making one’s work inaccessible (linguistically, economically, hermeneutically) to larger audiences is almost a precondition to professional success. And they will do this at the danger of uncritically recording or repeating medieval culture’s self-understandings. I am convinced that all lovers of the Middle Ages are capable of relating to the basic humanity of medieval human beings, to their motivations and emotions. I also believe that we produce less comprehensive understandings of medieval culture if we exclude our own subjective admission tickets to the Middle Ages and the reception histories of medieval events and practices. What my manifesto should help establish is that medieval studies, the academic study of medieval culture, is only one facet of medievalism, the overarching cultural phenomenon of any and all engagements with the medieval past. We scholars are participants in, not distant critics of this cultural phenomenon.

You can pre-order Medievalism: A Manifesto here

Medieval Metre is Seriously Cool. Seriously!

by Jane Toswell, co-author of our new book Early English Poetic Culture and Meter: The Influence of G. R. Russom

So why should I learn about Old and Middle English metre anyway?
Well, it’s true, metre can be a hard subject.  Hearing the rhythm in words and the aural patterns of repetition and imagery can be hard today, as students of English literature know.  If they have the choice, they often don’t want to study poetry.  But poetry is worth the effort.  Bob Dylan just won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his poetry, and the metre of his poetry is really easy to figure out since every one of his poems is also music, based on a striking pattern of sound and rhythm.  These patterns of sound and repetition, these patterns of repetition are the guts of poetry.  Old English and Middle English poetry are different enough from modern poetry that they take some extra study of those guts in order to appreciate and better articulate our understanding of medieval poetry.

Okay, so what should I read first?
That one is easy.  This collection of papers is for Geoffrey Richard Russom (known to medievalists the world over as “Rick”), because he has been a mentor for many of us when we were young graduate students and junior faculty, and because he is the writer on medieval metre who can take all that complexity and reduce it to some simple patterns and rules.  He wouldn’t call them rules, but strong tendencies, patterns of usage.  He has several books, especially on Beowulf, and especially on pulling together the different Germanic languages to see the metrical patterns they share. Rick is all about recognising patterns.  And so, we wanted to take his work and add to it, from a range of points of view.  Fyi, his bibliography is at the back of the book.

All right, but why should I read this book?  Why shouldn’t I just go and read Rick Russom’s books?
Well, do that too.  But in this book we interact with Rick by rejuvenating, pushing, and testing his theories.  For example, Tom Cable writes a foreword pointing out the ways he and Rick have agreed and disagreed over several decades, and Rob Fulk in chapter two picks up on how Old English and Old Norse poets treat verses with only verbs and particles (adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions).  Jun Terasawa (chapter one) seizes upon the short verses in Beowulf, those which in the surviving manuscript have only three syllables, and shakes them about to determine what editors have done with them, and what serious metrical thinking would suggest should be done with them.  Like Fulk, Terasawa models serious metrical study, testing every hypothesis and investigating every possibility.  In a similar mode is Megan Hartman (chapter five), who asks what room there is in the Rick’s famous theory for Beowulf that metrical feet correspond to words for non-Beowulf-like texts.  She takes sample sections from a range of other texts, and applies the theory to figure out how there is a loosening of some constraints, and a hardening of others, so that the word-foot theory works, but works differently.

Okay but that’s metrical analysis for other metrists to fight about.  I edit texts.  What’s useful for me in here?
Funny you should ask.  We’ve got two serious metrists who decided to edit texts for this volume, and to use their editions to ask metrical questions.  Eric Weiskott (chapter nine) is a Middle English scholar, and he tackles here a previously unedited late fifteenth-century poem which he calls the “Vision of William Banastre” and presents as an example of very late alliterative meter which demonstrates continuity going right back to Old English meter. Tom Bredehoft (chapter eight) edits a poem that was previously presented as prose, a confessional prayer found in the Regius Psalter from the late tenth century in Anglo-Saxon England, and with his edition of it as poetry argues for a continuum between poetic prose and prose-like poetry in late Old English. Both Bredehoft and Weisskott recognise that editing has to begin with understanding the nature of the text, and to do that you need to understand meter.

Fine, but I am more interested in style and word patterning.  Is there anything here for me?

Well, my co-editor, Lindy Brady, and I might be able to help you out ourselves.  Lindy in chapter four examines the occurrences of boars in Beowulf, references to these fierce and famous pigs in the poem which, she argues, seem to be tied to the Geats and to their victories in the first part of the poem.  It makes you think that close reading is actually useful.  I argue in chapter seven for formalizing something which a lot of Old English scholars have noted in passing, which is that polyptoton, using several words based on the same root, is a standard feature of the literature.  I hint (carefully) that in some texts polyptoton can almost be a metrical pattern, a way of offering some patterning in poems where the metrical constraints have loosened considerably.

Yeah, okay, but I want the edgy stuff, the scholarship that is really heading in new and interesting directions.  What have you got for me?
Got you covered too.  Read Hal Momma, who tackles the metrical psalter in chapter six and makes it interesting (somehow), investigating it as a translation text and using a theoretical matrix drawn from Eugene Nida and translation theorists.  Cool stuff.  And for a mind-blowing new approach, read Dan Donoghue (chapter three), who seizes upon Geoffrey Nunberg’s linguistic theory of punctuation, knocks it up against Old English manuscript punctuation, and draws really fascinating new conclusions about how this kind of interdisciplinarity can really energize the field.  Rick, who is the kind of interdisciplinarian who has published on Tolkien, on drinks of death in medieval literature, and on oral-formulaic approaches, would entirely approve.

Okay, you got me.
Excellent news.  Spread the word.  And do so rhythmically, bearing in mind that poetry comes from harnessing the patterns of speech, the rhythms of our everyday expressions.