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  • Interstices: Studies in Middle English and Anglo-Latin Texts in Honour of A.G. Rigg
  • Fiona Somerset (bio)
Richard Firth Green and Linne R. Mooney, editors. Interstices: Studies in Middle English and Anglo-Latin Texts in Honour of A.G. RiggUniversity of Toronto Press. xxii, 220. $53.00

Like any festschrift, this volume celebrates a life in scholarship. The scope of its contents is thus dictated by the affiliations of friendship and of the honorand's graduate supervisions as much as, or more than, any tight focus of topic – yet the editors are to be commended for producing a coherent volume of interdisciplinary essays on medieval England in which the high standard and wide range of the essays included are a fitting tribute to George Rigg's qualities as a colleague and supervisor. These qualities are further demonstrated by the list of Rigg's publications 1963-2004, prepared by Matthew D. Ponesse and Damian Fleming, that precedes the contributions. The contributions include two editions of short Middle English texts together with commentary (Barratt, Green), four essays briefly surveying a broader topic (Brewer, Burrow, Gray, Mooney), and four more tightly focused studies (Carley, Carlson, Echard, Hudson).

Alexandra Barratt's edition of a confessional formula from the Bolton Hours – one intriguingly exhaustive in its instructional scope – convincingly demonstrates its gender- and status-inclusivity. Charlotte Brewer's investigation of just what counted as a 'critical' edition among late nineteenth-century Chaucer editors and reviewers casts new light on the continuing controversies in the editing of Piers Plowman. John Burrow questions why scholars have assumed that gestures are universal, whereas the significance of terms used to describe them may have shifted: why, for example, are we so sure that the word 'wink' must have earlier referred to a different gesture such as a nod, rather than that the cultural meaning of the physical act of winking might have altered over time? James Carley investigates John of Glastonbury's sources for the material on Joseph of Arimathea in his chronicle, suggesting that John of Glastonbury, like John Hardyng, engaged in a concentrated phase of source-forgery in preparation for writing the early history of his abbey. David Carlson investigates why the visit of the Greek Emperor Manuel ii to England in 1400 was virtually ignored by contemporary chroniclers, hypothesizing that England's reduction of the Greeks to political insignificance paved the way for an English sense of cultural superiority based in the study of Greek antiquity. Siân Echard presents a corrective to Gower's editor Macaulay's presentation of only the Henrician versions of the Latin items that typically end manuscripts of the Confessio Amantis and Vox Clamantis, showing that there are multiple revisions of these over the reign of Richard ii and accession of Henry iv, just as there are of Gower's vernacular prologue and epilogue to the Confessio. Douglas Gray deftly surveys Chaucer's deployment of proverbs in the Wife of Bath's 'proverb war' and in the Troilus. Richard [End Page 235] Firth Green presents an edition of the short poem 'The Hermit and the Outlaw' and convincingly argues for the author's original development of his theme from among a wide range of available analogues rather than direct sources. Anne Hudson revisits the question of Peter Pateshulle's possible authorship of the Vita fratrum mendicantium as well as at least four satirical Latin poems, and urges Rigg to consider editing and translating the poems as a retirement project. Finally, Linne R. Mooney surveys the physical evidence (wear and tear, annotation, staining, etc) that manuscripts of scientific and utilitarian Middle English texts were actually put to use.

Together the contributors register Rigg's influence on the study of medieval manuscript anthologies and miscellanies, his significant work in textual editing and translation, and his establishment of the high standard of medieval Latin attained by students in the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. Collegiality and scholarly generosity are prominent throughout, from the foreword by David N. Klausner to the debts acknowledged in the list of contributors. [End Page 236]

Fiona Somerset

Fiona Somerset, Department of English, Duke University


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