ELCSG009 - Medieval Poetry On and Off the Page

Value: 30 credits
Tutor: Dr Catherine Keen
Teaching structure:
5,000 word essay

Module Description:

Modern readers encounter medieval poetry in standard printed formats, but what were the poetic forms known to contemporary readers? On this module we will think about the contexts in which audiences encountered poetry before the invention of printing, and about the impact that print and digital technologies have had on the presentation and consumption of such medieval texts. We will return to manuscript and other visual sources to explore aspects of textul presentation such as decoration and illumination; textual layout; paper, parchment and binding; handwriting and print fonts; survival and status of multiple/ lone copies; etc. We will look at some of the inventive forms used by medieval copyists to present texts on the manuscript page, such as calligrams or carmina figurata, or to improve the reader’s reception, such as the use of manicules or mnemonic marginalia, and discuss what non-book sources can tell us about the consumption of medieval poetry, such as painting and sculpture, textiles, modern audio-visual performances and recordings. The module provides opportunities (subject to permissions) for study of manuscripts and early printed books in London collections, such as UCL Special Collections, the British Library, the Warburg Institute. It looks towards the future in considering the impact of digitisation of texts, books and manuscripts, and new forms of reading and text consumption and circulation developing in the twenty-first century.

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

There are no ‘set texts’ as such on this module, but the following links offer examples of the kind of primary materials we will discuss:

Initial Secondary Bibliography:

  • Leila Avrin, Scribes, Script and Books: The Book Arts from Antiquity to the Renaissance (London: The British Library, 1991)
  • Michael Camille, Image on the Edge: the Margins of Medieval Art (London: Reaktion Books, 1992)
  • David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery, An Introduction to Book History (New York and London: Routledge, 2005)
  • Raimonda Modiano, Leroy Searle and Peter Shillingsburg, ed, Voice, Text, Hypertext: Emerging Practices in Textual Studies (University of Washington Press, 2004)
  • Armando Petrucci, Public Lettering: Script, Power, and Culture, trans. Linda Lappin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993)
  • Peter Shillingsburg, From Gutenberg to Google: Electronic Representations of Literary Texts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)