- Textual and Visual Representations of Power and Justice in Medieval France: Manuscripts and Early Printed Books ed. by Rosalind Brown-Grant, Anne D. Hedeman, and Bernard Ribémont
This volume brings together eleven essays by manuscript, literary, and art-history scholars from French- and English-speaking academia, and it is through this range of expertise and experience that the volume seeks to redress the field of studies on medieval power and justice. As Rosalind Brown-Grant notes in the Introduction, attention to this subject has been patchy across disciplines, with art historians paying more attention to legal texts, for instance, than do social and cultural historians. She also notes that where literary and legal historians (among others) have dealt with the themes of medieval law, their work has mainly been published in French. The volume therefore seeks to bridge methodological as well as linguistic differences in studies of power and justice through contributions in English (with French abstracts) that focus on both text and image. The articles, which cover the period from 1170 to 1520, are organized around three themes: ‘the prince as ruler, the figure of the judge, and the role of the queen in relation to matters of justice’ (p. 6). Six of the essays (Anne D. Hedeman, Brown-Grant, Michelle Szkilnik, Kristin Bourassa, Cynthia J. Brown, and Lydwine Scordia) are concerned with the first of these themes; three with the second (Barbara Denis-Morel, Maïté Billoré and Esther Dehoux, and Mary Beth Winn); and two with the last (Yasmina Foehr-Janssens and Kathleen Wilson-Chevalier). Although this might seem a little unbalanced, on reading the volume it becomes clear that the close interrelation of these themes knits all the articles together. For instance, several of the articles across the themes are concerned with manuscripts made for rulers of France in the later Middle Ages. Furthermore, in the first section, [End Page 586] which deals with ‘advice literature addressed to the noble male reader’ (p. 6), female personifications of allegorical figures are central to both Bourassa’s article on the figure of Queen Truth in the Songe du vieil pelerin and to Brown’s on three political allegories for three consecutive French kings in which she shows the close relationship between text and illumination. The representation of female figures returns as the subject of the third section in Foehr-Janssens’s analysis of adulterous queens in chivalric literature and Wilson-Chevalier’s consideration of the figure of Justice as a model for Queen Claude. Winn’s article in the second section extends discussion to printed books where she considers how Robert Gobin’s moral treatise, the Loups ravissans, uses woodcuts of the Danse macabre to ‘render [ . . . ] inexorable justice to those who have sided with the wolves’ (p. 192), and how these woodcuts then found a second life in Books of Hours as ‘visual reminders of the fate of all sinners’ (p. 215). The volume is generously illustrated, with the plates integrated into the text, which is especially helpful for the reader. Some essays engage less with the images reproduced than others, perhaps reflecting the disciplinary boundaries within which scholars still work. However, this is an impressive volume that, along with Brown-Grant and Rebecca Dixon’s Text/Image Relations in Late Medieval French and Burgundian Culture (Fourteenth–Sixteenth Centuries) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), is a key example of the richness of text–image studies.