Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Potential lives : the matter of late medieval manuscripts
Author: White, Thomas
ISNI:       0000 0004 6352 9358
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
Late medieval vernacular literary texts frequently reflect on their physical existence; they establish a poetics of material composition that is productively ambivalent about the contingencies of literary making in a manuscript culture. This thesis traces the ‘potential life’ of a late medieval manuscript. Four keywords (blankness, palimpsests, textiles, and fragments) provide the impetus for a discussion that connects a wide range of literary, codicological, and theoretical materials, in a mode that is iterative and additive. Manuscripts are not simply containers or substrates for literary texts; varied and ambivalent ideas about manuscripts are deeply embedded in the medieval period’s cultural and philosophical moment: they are the ‘matter’ of medieval writing in the dual sense of that word. In exploring the theoretical, figurative, and interpretative possibilities of manuscript study this thesis turns to a wide range of late medieval texts: these include the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vernacular romance, The Book of Margery Kempe, The Book of Sir John Mandeville, and Thomas Hoccleve’s Series. The numerous and varied manuscripts of The Book of Sir John Mandeville form a central focus. As well as engaging with the late medieval period’s own rich vocabulary for describing the transformations of matter, I use contemporary ecological theory and new materialism in order to think further about the materials of medieval books. The work of Michel Serres, Bruno Latour, Tim Ingold, and Jonathan Gil Harris provides the occasion not simply to ‘apply’ contemporary theory to medieval materials, but to trace a more dialectical history in which theoretical, literary, and manuscript materials are brought into productive contact. This thesis demonstrates that late medieval manuscripts are sites where multiple temporalities are interwoven, in a manner that should encourage a critical self-­‐‑reflexiveness about how scholars narrate the lives of manuscripts, as well as about the modern archiving procedures that have come to condition our access to the medieval past. It reflects critically on the ways in which the medieval textual record has come to be fragmented, archived, and disciplined in the postmedieval period.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available