Reading English Verse in Manuscript c.1350-c.1500
Published : Thursday 21 May 2020
You may also like ...
This history of reading for Middle English poetry combines close readings, detailed case studies of surviving codices, and systematic manuscript surveys to demonstrate the variety, vitality, and formal concerns visible in the reading of verse in this period.
Reading English Verse in Manuscript, c.1350-c.1500 is the first book-length history of reading for later Middle English poetry. While much past work in the history of reading has revolved around marginalia, this book consults a wider range of evidence, from the weights of books in medieval bindings to relationships between rhyme and syntax. It combines literary-critical close readings, detailed case studies of particular surviving codices, and systematic manuscript surveys drawing on continental European traditions of quantitative codicology to demonstrate the variety, vitality, and formal concerns visible in the reading of verse in this period. The small-and large-scale formal features of poetry affected reading subtly but extensively, determining how readers might move through books and even shaping physical books themselves. Readers' responses to one formal feature, rhyme, meanwhile, evince a habitual but therefore deep-rooted formalism which can support and enhance close readings today. Reading English Verse in Manuscript sheds fresh light on poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer, John Lydgate, and Thomas Hoccleve, but also shows how their works were read in manuscript in the context of a much larger mass of anonymous poems that influenced canonical poems, in a pattern of mutual influence.