- Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (review)
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.)
- Volume 18, Number 3, July 2001
- p. pp. 175-177
- View Citation
Reviews 175 beginnings or experiences. They invariably present a linear, causal development, which invokes a 'narcissistic bond with an assumedly rational cosmos' (p. 171). In repeatedly showing the fragility ofthis bond, Davis concludes, that 'The poem, or Milton, has thoroughly accepted the challenge to restricted conceptions of rationality which thought of Chaos poses' (p. 184). Stories of Chaos is a thought-provoking study of the tensions between rationality and disorder in the years prior to the consolidation of Enlightenment models of uniform process and practice. Davis situates his readings of these literary works within changing philosophical, ethical and scientific contexts in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Yet he is, in closing, careful to emphasise the importance of tales of chaos and order to 'political-historical and ethicalpsychological ' experience (p. 189). These works recount 'a poetic cosmology . . . whose proper sense is action, suffering and desire on the human scene' (p. 189). Lloyd Davis School ofEnglish, Media Studies & Art History University of Queensland Dean, Ruth J., with the collaboration of Maureen B. M. Boulton, Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (Anglo-Norman Text Society, Occasional Publications Series 3), London, Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1999; cloth; pp. xviii, 553; R.R.P. £35.00 members, £49.00 non-members; ISBN 0905474384. Anglo-Norman literature refuses to go away. Those of us who work in medieval English studies, unnerved by dim memories of our struggles with the vagaries ofFrench grammar and pronunciation when w e were about 16, are often reluctant to come to grips with it. But wherever w e turn, there it is, whether w e work on Middle English secular, scientific or religious texts. For one cannot balk the fact that medieval England was a tri-lingual society, its socio-linguistic pecking order for centuries Latinfirst,Anglo-Norman second, and English trailing somewhere in the distance. And yet modern scholarly attention exactly reverses this medieval state ofaffairs. To be fair, the study ofAnglo-Norman has not been made any easier by the lack of accessible reference books. There have been no equivalents of the Index of Middle English Verse, Index of Middle English Prose, or Hartung's 176 Reviews Manual of Writings in Middle English. But brace yourselves. You won't have that excuse any longer, now that the long-awaited revision of Johan Vising's slim but pioneering 1923 volume, Anglo-Norman Language and Literature, has finally appeared. (The last copy of Vising to pass through m y hands was falling apart from the use it had received over the last three-quarters of a century by four generations of students.) With the same title, but refined by its subtitle 'A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts', Professor Dean's revision is more thanfivetimes the length of its original: over 500 pages, with 986 entries and six indices. A m o n g these alone indices of manuscripts, incipits, titles (in French, English and Latin), medieval authors, sources, and patrons - one could happily amuse oneself for days. Looking through the entries themselves, one is struck by just how much detailed scholarly work has been done in this area. But it seems to have made little cumulative impact on wider Middle English studies and Anglo-Norman studies continue to be perceived as a scholarly terra nullius. This book has been long in the making: Dean has devoted her life to this project. One is awed and astonished to read that she studied under Mildred K. Pope and corresponded with Vising himself She was already publishing in the 1930s and this volume is a monument to scholarly selflessness and persistence. But as she modestly says in her Introduction, 'Thefieldis not exhausted, nor is the need for additions, corrections and new approaches'. And in response I should like to offer a few supplementary notes to those entries where I have some direct knowledge of the texts. Other readers will surely want to make their own contributions and perhaps this book could become the foundation of a database. W e do not want to wait another 75 years to benefit from new work in this field. No. 643: Ancrene Riwle is no longer dated as early as 'the end of the twelfth century...