Cover

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About the Series, Title Page, Copyright, Quotes

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preliminary

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pp. ix-xiv

I wish I could begin somewhere else, but beginning means starting with a text. At least it does here, because there’s no way to start talking about beginnings without getting drawn into the language that they shape and are shaped by. And I’m mainly interested not in the shape that texts have, but in the things that they do, in the things they make us do or not do, ...

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Incipit: A Fourteenth-Century Incipit

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pp. 1-41

Much of the writing in medieval London began in three streets next to Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The ambiguity of the English past tense “began” in this beginning, the incipit of this book, shows already the difficulty we have in talking about beginning, in deciding whether we are talking about the origin of writing itself or individual acts of writing, what happens whenever pen is put to parchment. ...

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Initium: Incipits and the Intentions of Vernacular Writing

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pp. 42-60

As massive summae of theology and digests of law began to be produced regularly in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, new ways of organizing books had to be invented. Single works contained a range of topics that could not conceivably be contained in the mind. ...

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Exordium: Making Beginnings: Disposition and Inscription

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pp. 61-81

We have seen that texts in the Middle Ages begin well before the moment marked by the incipit. Part of the work itself is the conceptual history of the poem, the kinds of mental discipline, exercise, and design that lead to the performance of the idea in language. ...

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Thema: The Book That Makes Itself

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pp. 82-112

It should be abundantly clear by now that, in terms of its use of beginnings to order the poem, Piers Plowman is a complicated and aberrant text. Yet its preoccupation with beginnings reiterates its location in history as a textual product of the High Middle Ages; it is a poem that, like most others, mirrors the outward world, the world that is itself a divinely authored book. ...

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Origo: Genealogy: Engenderment and Digression

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pp. 113-139

And so the book has still not begun. That is, its beginnings still emerge from the world outside the book, gesturing toward the ways in which one might make a beginning if one were to begin the book all over again, or gesturing toward the other beginnings that make this one possible. ...

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Conditora: The Archive of Grammar: Beginning and Documentary Remembrance

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pp. 140-170

The previous chapter argued that familial beginnings, those imagined as stemming from the family or as being somehow analogous to the engendering of a family, are a compelling form of intrinsic beginning. But they are a kind of beginning that is not sustainable, resting on the absence of the progenitor, the obliteration of the familial origin in the emergence of successors, of new forms, of new progenitors. ...

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Principium: Beginning Perfection: The Theology of Inception

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pp. 171-212

One of the most highly charged theological issues of the fourteenth century was the role that the will played in salvation. It is one of the issues that divided theologians, virtually defining who belonged to the relatively conservative tradition associated with Augustine, which argued for the primacy of grace, and who belonged to the group sometimes called the moderni, which argued that works played a critical role. ...

Notes

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pp. 213-260

Bibliography

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pp. 261-282

Index

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pp. 283-296