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Title: Deciphering the manuscript page : the mise-en-page of Chaucer, Gower, and Hoccleve Manuscripts
Author: Nafde, Aditi
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 7212
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis examines the production of the Middle English poetic manuscript. It analyses the mise-en-page of manuscripts created during a crucial period for book production, immediately after 1400, when there was a sudden explosion in the production of vernacular manuscripts of literary texts, when the demand for books increased, and the commercial book trade swiftly followed. It offers a close analysis of the mise-en-page of the manuscripts of three central authors: Chaucer’s, Gower’s, and Hoccleve’s manuscripts were at the heart of this sudden flourishing and were, crucially, produced when scribal methods for creating the literary page were still unformed. Previous studies have focused on the localised readings produced by single scribes, manuscripts, or authors, offering a limited examination of broader trends. This study offers a wider comparison: where individual studies offer localised analysis, the multi-textuality of this thesis offers broader perceptions of book production and of scribal responses to the new literary texts being produced. In analysing the layout of seventy-six manuscripts, including borders, initials, paraphs, rubrics, running titles, speaker markers, glosses and notes, this thesis argues that scribes were deeply concerned with creating a manuscript page specifically to showcase texts of poetry. The introduction outlines current scholarship on mise-en-page and defines the scribe as one who offers an individual response to the text on the page within the context of the inherited, commercial, and practical practices of layout. The three analytical chapters address the placement of the features of mise-en-page in each of the seventy-six manuscripts, each chapter offering three contrasting manuscript situations. Chapter 1 analyses the manuscripts of Chaucer, who left no plan for the look of his page, causing scribes to make decisions on layout that illuminate fifteenth-century scribal responses to literature. These are then compared to the manuscripts of Gower in Chapter 2, directly or indirectly supervised by the poet, which display rigorous uniformity in their layout. This chapter argues that scribes responded in much the same way, despite the strict control over meaning. Chapter 3 focuses on Hoccleve’s autograph manuscripts which are unique in demonstrating authorial control over layout. This chapter compares the autograph to the non-autograph manuscripts to argue that scribal responses differed from authorial intentions. Each of the three chapters analyses the development of mise-en-page specifically for literary texts. Focussing on the mise-en-page, this thesis is able to compare across a range of texts, manuscripts, scribes, and authors to mount a substantial challenge to current perceptions that poetic manuscripts were laid out in order to assist readers’ understanding of the meaning of the texts they contain. Instead, it argues that though there was a concern with representing the nuances of poetic meaning, often scribal responses to poetry were bound up with presenting poetic form.
Supervisor: Horobin, Simon ; Hanna, Ralph Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; English and Old English literature ; History of the book ; Palaeography ; Manuscript Studies ; Mise-en-Page ; Chaucer ; Gower ; Hoccleve ; Scribal Practice