publisher colophon

Walter Map’s De nugis curialium stakes a radical claim for authorship and writing within twelfth-century European literary culture. Map imagines a form of authorship based on his ambivalence toward his immediate court context and the alterity of his being a subordinate, belated writer. He privileges materials from the margins of established literary discourse, and he fashions reading not just as the application of fit moral lessons but as an active, potentially unstable site of intellectual labor and textual meaning. In key episodes of his book, Map goes beyond self-reflexive commentary to test the limits of his precepts and the artistic freedom they allow.

Walter Map's De nugis curialium occupies an intriguing place within the poetics and literary history of negation. Though firmly rooted in the court of Henry II, Map's book opens with a partial comparison of the Angevin court with hell and repeatedly asserts its alienation, even as the court remains the source for public life and the defining context for writing. Map says that he writes at the insistence of an otherwise unidentified addressee, Geoffrey, who may be a contemporary or merely a convenient fiction.1 His book evidently remained a private document, without a history of circulation as a complete work, but he inscribes a variety of audiences as potential and imagined readers—palace bureaucrats in need of recreation, a recalcitrant friend, an unsympathetic public from which he hides his identity as a modern rather than ancient writer. The dominant mode of the De nugis is curial satire, complemented by satires on the monastic orders and marriage.2

Map writes at a historical moment and in a cultural milieu where satire enjoyed a particularly rich expression.3 Henrician satire operated across a number of forms—epistolary, instructional, and imaginative. Peter of Blois wrote a monitory letter to Henry's courtiers asserting his own recognition that "courtly life is the death of the soul."4 John of Salisbury and Gerald of Wales wove criticism of the court into treatises designed to educate monarchs in principles of statecraft. Nigel of Canterbury wrote a tract against courtiers and court clerics as well as the Speculum Stultorum, his satiric beast epic of the ass Brunellus. Unlike his contemporaries, though, Map places authorship and writing rather than moral correction at the center of his work.5 Peter's invective, as he admits in his later retraction, equates the court with the world in general and draws on a broad tradition of contempt for the world. Writers of princely instruction base their precepts and political theory on moral philosophy, especially the cultivation of moderation and other virtues that separate a king from a tyrant. If Map shares with these writers a recourse to exemplarity, his interest lies more in the textuality of narratives than in their application.

Map had a contemporary reputation as a wit and storyteller, but his interests ranged well beyond satirical topics. The De nugis emerges as [End Page 273] a compilation of secular and ecclesiastical anecdote, legend, history, folklore, ghost story, gossip, polemic, informal ethnography, romance, novella, moralization, and exhortation.6 For postmedieval readers, the mixed contents and uncertain structure of the De nugis have produced two critical approaches, which might be described as anecdotalist and metacritical respectively. Each approach espouses a distinct literary aesthetic for locating Map's book within our broader understanding of literary forms and traditions. Each responds to Map's authorship and writing by accentuating the qualities that two successive cultural moments in our own modernity value as strong markers of literary craft and consciousness.

The De nugis is traditionally read as the work of a gifted anecdotalist. This appraisal begins with Thomas Wright's editio princeps of the De nugis (1850), and it continues through the standard critical edition of M. R. James (1914) and the modern scholars who shaped the critical conversation about Map.7 It is with A. G. Rigg's comparison of Map with writers such as Wodehouse, Waugh, Poe, and Stevenson that the literary aesthetic is fully revealed (1992).8 Map the anecdotalist is the narrative craftsman of the short story and the novel of manners and social comedy. With Poe and Stevenson no less than Wodehouse and Waugh, he is a modernist.

The metacritical approach gives particular weight to Map's self-reflexive comments about authorship. G. T. Shepherd (1979) argues, "Though nugae [trifles] are its matter it is also a book about stories and about their status," and it poses a question that reflects both Map's wit and the literary ambitions of his age: can nugae be taken seriously?9 Robert Levine (1988) suggests, "Under the mask of triviality, Walter offers playfully bitter misogyny, satire and complaint, with deliberately grotesque fantasies of impotence, castration, necrophilia, and decapitation."10 The most fully theorized response to Map's autocommentary is Siân Echard's argument (1996) that metafiction provides a rationale and even a structural principle for the work.11 For Echard, metafiction aligns the book with the rhetorical and conceptual strategies of parody and with an aesthetic that features multiple voicing and a prominent role for the reader. Self-conscious and ambivalent, Map is a postmodernist.

As this account suggests, both approaches recontextualize Map in order to understand his fascinating and puzzling book, a work that radically complicates the space of writing in the Middle Ages. To a striking degree, both draw attention to the same textual evidence. The metafictional approach has a strong debt to the anecdotalist reading: the writerly qualities and wit of Map the modernist are also the codes laid bare and disrupted by postmodern Map. Moreover, both approaches share the conviction that something important in literary history is truly at stake in the De [End Page 274] nugis. For Map functions as an author simultaneously within and against a sophisticated literary sphere that produced its own official discourse of secular and religious chronicles, vernacular translations from the classics, hagiography, romances, and moral and politicial didacticism.12 Those forms carried an authority which is the necessary condition of Map's book and at times the oblique target of its parody. Map uses and manipulates his context in ways that serve an aesthetic end sustained by court writing but insistently distinct from it.

The literary project informing the De nugis, I propose, is the assertion of authorship within and against the framework of court culture. Map's authorship rests on a self-conscious formulation of the writer's role, a distinct space of writing, and the hermeneutic power of reading. These issues are the ones I intend to address in this essay. First of all, Map sets out a theory of counter-authorship in the shifting roles and pleasures of authorial performance represented in his book. Second, he cultivates marginalized literary discourse as a separate space of imagination and even as a vehicle of modernity. Third, he makes readership and reception parts of a dialectic of textual and cultural meaning. These issues are explored in a work that he claims to have written hurriedly, composing sections on separate sheets under the pressure of time and circumstance—a little book "jotted down by snatches at the court of King Henry" (4.2).13 If his mode of composition produces a theory of authorship and writing that is consequently dispersed, allusive, and thematic, Map's thoughts on these issues echo each other, and we can trace their discursive patterns across his text. But Map's book does more than claim a set of theoretical positions. The De nugis incorporates as well a self-critique that examines the theoretical problems of constructing an inward sphere of writing and literary imagination. The final part of my essay examines this turn in three narratives that stand as allegories of authorship.

I. "A Naked Unarmed Fighter": A Theory of Counter-Authorship

Map's comments on authorship are well cataloged in the scholarship but, I think, underappreciated in their rhetorical and conceptual resonance.14 Modern critics generally take them as expository statements rather than parts of Map's imaginative text. Early on, Map protests that Geoffrey has charged "an inexperienced and unskilled man [hominem ydiotam et imperitum] to write" (1.10). He claims to be an imbecile ("ydiota") and admits, "I confess myself a foolish and dull poet" (1.25). His style, he says, serves as the exact mirror of his authorial failures (4.3). Later, even his modest subject matter ("friuola," trifles) ostensibly [End Page 275] overmasters him: "These matters are perhaps trifles for great books, but for my sheets they are suitable enough, and to me they even seem too high for my pen" (5.5).

Within these tropes of modesty, however, Map develops a form of authorship radically defined by negation. He seems to claim a role of transcriber outside invention: "My own purpose in the matter is to invent nothing new [nichil noui cudere], and introduce nothing untrue [nichil falsitatis inferre], but to narrate as well as I can what, having seen, I know, or what, having heard, I believe" (1.12).15 His writing contrasts with false coinage (cudere) and bad reasoning (inferre) so that Map claims, in effect, to stand beyond the fabrications of discourse, innocent of anything except his good faith. Similarly, in his assertion of imbecility, ineptness, and dullness, he insists on a difference—he is not a "falsigrafum" (1.25), a "writer of lies," but one who executes an authentic, unforged, transparent text.16

In the passages usually read as conventional rhetorical gestures, Map cancels out the normal expectations of authorship. To Geoffrey he asserts not just his own inadequacy but the artfully contrived impossibility of the task given him (1.10). Geoffrey would make Map courtly, though not witty ("curialem . . . non dico facetum"), a child who by definition cannot speak yet who speaks nonetheless ("puer sum et loqui nescio—sed dico"), an unwilling philosophizer of the court to which he is at once bound and exiled ("religatum et ad hanc relegatum"). A courtier without wit has no social or political efficacy, as Map demonstrates through his anecdotes about clerics and courtiers. His play on loqui/dico recalls Augustine's famous etymologizing of infant from infans: ("an infant, who cannot speak").17 The play on religatum (bound)/relegatum (exiled) registers the ambivalence that Map expresses variously elsewhere: "In this pitiable and care-ridden court I languish, renouncing my own pleasure to please others" (4.13).18

In another passage, complaining that he is asked to write in the midst of discord, Map consciously restructures the story of Balaam and the ass as a parallel to his authorial task.19 His patron has used Balaam's spurs, he says, to drive him to writing about the court: "I am much afraid that my stupidity will cause our parts—mine of the ass, and yours of Balaam—to be reversed, so that when you try to make me speak I shall begin to bray—as the other spoke instead of braying—and you will have made an ass out of a man whom you wanted to make into a poet" (1.12). At one level, the confused references in Map's illustration fully demonstrate the stupidity ("insipienciam") that he ascribes to himself: in the biblical story (Num. 22:21–35) it is God, not Balaam, who gives the she-ass the powers to see the angel blocking Balaam's path and to tell him that her turning from the pathway is a portent whose meaning [End Page 276] the angel, not the ass, explains. At another level, though, Map does not confuse the comparison so much as relocate its meaning. The message Geoffrey wants Map to convey is not divine injunction but an account of noise ("discordias") that signifies the court, "nostra procellosa"—a phrase that recalls the stormy fellowship of human life that Augustine links to language as the articulation of human desires.20 In this sense, the reversal of roles and the failure of articulate speech fit the task.21 Map can faithfully report the strife of court life only by speaking as an ass: "Well, an ass I will be, since you wish it."

The theory that Map suggests by his comments and allusions might be called counter-authorship. By that I mean a form of authorial self-definition that exists in virtue of its differences from official literary roles, the higher genres of literary discourse, and the sociopolitical imaginary that those roles and genres sustain.22 Counter-authorship is a program of committed alterity, incompleteness, and subordination. It operates by contrast to dominant formations in literary culture, yet it depends on them in order to function. Hence Map's powerful ambivalence toward his commission to write the book: "[I] have wrung [this little book] by force out of my heart, in the attempt to obey my lord's orders" (4.2). Counter-authorship treats the writer's role as a form of subjectivity and inwardness, the equivalent of interior faith carefully preserved "in the hidden purity of the heart" so that outward events in the social sphere do not change the "interior man" (4.13). At the same time that the author claims a subjectivity situated within writing, his writing and authorship nonetheless have a public circulation. The De nugis is premised on the aesthetic contradiction that a private book is at the same time commissioned by a court figure of some authority and read by others, including the objects of his satiric attacks.

At the start of Distinctio 3, Map offers an image of ludic performance for what counter-authorship entails.23 His writing, he says, is the alternative to philosophy and theology. Designed for recreation and sport, the compositional topics are intentionally trifling ("innolibiles et exsangues inepcias" [3.1]). Their triviality, however, is public and visible, acted out as a form of self-representation. Map chooses the metaphor of theater and spectacle to convey a kind of authorship that offers not merely the antidote to high matters ("seria") but the playful negation of them: "it is the theatre and the arena that I haunt, a naked unarmed fighter [nudus pugil et inermis]."24 He thus chooses the sphere of performance that medieval culture treats as a source of outright depravity in Tertullian's De spectaculis and moral confusion in Augustine's Confessions. Map's theatricality may be closer still to the agonistic theater imagined by the authoritative, if frequently wrong, encyclopedist Isidore of Seville, for whom the theater is an image of the present world as well as an allegorical [End Page 277] brothel where prostitutes set upon the apparently defenseless spectators. Isidore derives theatrum from spectaculum and emphasizes that the theater is a place of doubled spectatorship: "it is so called because in it the people standing above and watching the scenes being played are themselves observed."25 The telling detail here is that Map as author stands at the center of this theatrical spectacle. He presents himself as the protagonist and combatant singularly unsuited for the encounter he has devised. He thus evokes an image of ritualized struggle and stylized conflict in order to position his authorship as the object of collective observation and a source, as Tertullian and Augustine insist, for inciting desires through representation.26

In another passage, Map develops this image of defenseless, agonistic spectacle. He is banished from the court that formerly held him, and he now enjoys the intoxicating but hopeless experience of freedom: "[I] realize [for the first time] the inestimable gain of being freed from the court; banished [relegatus] from it I see in my unwonted quiet how hard were the bands that held me [religatus] there" (4.2). The ironic peace ("quies") he enjoys is apocalyptic, for it is a liberation from the court that occurs in the collapse after Henry's death, which leaves no appeal to justice in the public sphere and no standards applicable to literary craftsmanship. Map imagines himself in a social and literary posthistory that reproduces but intensifies the discord that Geoffrey initially thrusts him into by having him write. He defines this as "nichil humanitatis"—a condition in which moral and aesthetic collapse parallel and mirror each other. In a context of no constraint, he turns to writing that stands beyond vatic poetry and traditional craft in the realm of self-inaugurating authorship: "Therefore I can approach the task I used to fear, in confidence [tutus] and unarmed [inermis]." The substitution here of tutus for nudus pugil marks a step beyond the ludic violence of theater and spectacle. Authorship, Map implies, is all that is left after moral and literary judgments have lost their cultural coherence.

Map makes a similar point when his authorship is a potential point of contention in the reception of his tract against marriage, a staple of medieval antifeminist literature. He says that the classical names of the author and recipient given in his title for the tract—"Dissuasio Valerii ad Ruffinum"—are a strategy of concealment designed to protect the book from dismissal as a modern rather than ancient work, hence a discourse without authority. His ruse, Map reports, confers pleasure and safety: "My only satisfaction is that I am safe [tutus] from envy" (4.5). Concealment, like collapse, offers an ambivalent freedom from historical contingency. Indeed, Map enjoys the spectacle of misidentification and disguise he has orchestrated, as he surveys the reception of the pseudoauthor Valerius that he has sent out into public to hold his place.27 Counter-authorship [End Page 278] moves, then, within theatrical spectacle, posthistory, and the erasure of the writer behind his text. In a literary system structured by authority, Map claims a place for writing founded on the performance of subjectivity and protected by defenselessness.

II. "Frivolous Story": The Margins of Discourse

Map's subject matter is the aesthetic correlate of his counter-authorship. His treatment of folklore, fantasmata, apparitions, and prodigies, as Alberto Vàrvaro and Gilda Caiti-Russo point out, reflects a significant cultural shift in the High Middle Ages when popular stories reenter literary discourse.28 Map complains of the materia copiosa assigned in Geoffrey's commission to him (1.12), and he admits to malice in his attack on the monastic orders (1.25). When he comments on his writings, his emphasis falls preponderantly on his anecdotal materials. For these he has a critical lexicon of apparent dismissal: fatua et friuola narracio ("foolish and frivolous story" [3.2]), incidencia ("common happenings" [4.2]), friuola et inepta ("trifling and unfit" [5.5]). This dismissal is always located, however, in the ways the stories may appear to others. As Levine points out, Map nowhere terms his own writing nugae.29

Map consciously locates his trifling stories within the generic and rhetorical expectations of medieval advice literature. While protesting his inabilities as an author, he nonetheless applies the Horatian formula dulce et utile to his material, so "that the reading of it may amuse, and its teaching tend to moral improvement" (1.12).30 The dual aims of pleasure and profit also inform the writing of history and fiction, despite their differing truth claims. Both modes of discourse produce the moral lessons of choosing virtue and eschewing vice: "For history, which is founded on truth, and story [fabula], which weaves together fiction [ficta], both of them make the good happy by a flourishing end, that goodness may be loved, and condemn the wicked to a dismal death, wishing to make malice hateful" (1.31). Vàrvaro claims, however, that the distinction between history and fable is not pertinent for Map and merely reflects different degrees of elaboration.31 Map makes it clear that history and fiction share the same alternating structure of adversity and prosperity. Consequently, one functions semiotically as the substitute for the other: "so both being ever before our eyes, neither may be forgotten for the other" (1.31). Their alternation, he insists, shares the common ground of writing, a recursive circuit between adversity and prosperity "in the records [in scripturis]."

The phrase "in scripturis" has challenged Map's translators in ways that suggest his concept of literary space. James's translation "records" [End Page 279] conveys the exemplary aims of discourse. Frederick Tupper and Marbury Ogle render the phrase as "in narratives" and Marylène Perez as "dans les écrits."32 Near the end of the De nugis, Map offers a clarifying example. He demonstrates the constitutive power of writing in an idealized account of Henry I's domestic governance, which contrasts pointedly with the contemporary court. The basis of Henry I's governance is writing, and Henry functions as the auctor: "He had the customs of his house and household, as ordained by himself, kept in writing" (5.5).33 Henry's records serve the practical purpose of regulating provisions and expenditures and of maintaining stable allowances, which thereby avoid the discord and confusion inherent in other courts. At the same time, these authorized records establish the textualization of the court.34 The social and political spheres are made intelligible and subsequently governed through representation. The golden age that Map ascribes to Henry's court is thus produced by social reality originating in language, specifically in description and panegyric. Wise kingship may remain the ultimate source of this felicity, as advice literature proclaims throughout the medieval and early modern periods, but it works for Map through writing.35

Against this background of textualized social practice, Map undertakes a particular form of rhetorical invention: "it is just the sayings and doing which have not yet been committed to writing" (1.12). Map's technical vocabulary here—dicta et facta nondum littere tradita—identifies his subject matter as what rhetoricians and medieval poetic theorists called untouched material, new materials not yet treated by other writers, and it discloses the ambition of bringing these topics within literary discourse.36 The phrasing also recalls Valerius Maximus's collection of materials for rhetorical invention, the Facta et dicta memorabilia. Valerius sought to preserve the cultural memory of classical antiquity within exemplary discourse, but Map gives a particular coloring to what he includes from the deeds and sayings of the Angevin court. His writing focuses on things that have produced wonder and marvel as well as the wisdom of cultural memory and moral instruction. It includes a mixture of materials, particularly the friuola that balance exemplary narrative and expand its resources and potential scope.

Map extends this view of writing by asserting the value of modernity as a source for exemplarity. By modernity, Map intends his own century. The notable deeds that have occurred within it are the objects of immediate memory and possible witness (1.30). These two elements underwrite his claim to narrate what he has seen or what he believes to be true. Repeatedly in the De nugis, Map invokes the topos of the Golden Age not merely to condemn the present age but to argue as well for its importance as a source for reflection and moral instruction. The most [End Page 280] systematic expression of the latter theme comes at the beginning of Distinctio 5, where he connects the cultural authority of the past to writing. If the poets have preserved the deeds of the ancients within cultural memory, modern writers have condemned their own age to oblivion by their fondness for controversy. The material is adequate, he says, but "the craftsmen are supine and our writers have no influence [autoritas]" (5.1). Popular poetry—the "scola mimorum" celebrating Charlemagne and his dynasty—cannot perform the cultural work that Map envisions, which he expresses in the verb impaginare, to commit to writing and so to make intelligible in the same way that the social imaginary of Henry I's records make governance intelligible.37

Map's framing of modernity in this passage produces both comic paradox and a serious literary claim. The modern penchant for dispute rather than writing creates just the kind of inverted marvel that Map takes as his material: "the dead live, and the living are buried in their stead!" (5.1) Amplifying the irony, Map goes on to insist that the moderns possess the same vices as the ancients even if they lack the virtues to make them notable. The larger point behind these turns of wit, however, is that modernity proves capable of the same exemplarity that antiquity traditionally offers. On a stylistic level, Map contends that modernity fully suits the didactic function of middle style, which is to praise and blame. On a moral plane, it supports the complete interpretive work of scrutiny and reflection: "withdraw not your eye from either [honor or baseness] unless you have thoroughly viewed it and taken it in." In the rest of Distinctio 5, he gives his own demonstration of what a full and attentive review of modern examples might yield. Reading the historical record from Cnut to his present day, he contrasts the kingly generosity in Henry II and Louis VII with the covetousness of Earl Godwine of Wessex. Map, as scholars note, commits any number of historical errors in his account of twelfth-century politics, but his crucial move is to make modernity a topic of complex deliberation by bringing it into writing. Godwine's covetousness is offset, for example, by the sheer appeal of his intelligence when he authors a forged letter from Cnut to make himself king of the Danes. So, too, Map's counterfeit classic, the "Dissuasio Valerii" (Valerius's Dissusasion of the philosopher Rufinus not to marry), is a modern text "greedily seized upon [auide rapitur]" (4.5), reproduced, and read with amusement. As Traugott Lawler observes, "it expects annotation; it uses the tradition of annotation; and it annotates itself."38 [End Page 281]

III. Readership and Reception

The readers Map imagines are a complement to the counter-authorship he claims for himself and the materials he brings within the literary protocols of invention. The recursive structure of adversity and prosperity in history and fiction, for example, is reproduced within reading, for reading involves a moral and social hygiene carried out by the reader himself: "[M]en may regulate themselves by a medical mixture, that neither rise nor ruin may predominate overmuch" (1.31).39 Such regulation, Map hastens to add, is limited to temporal, not spiritual, matters. It is the regime of the court subject facing mutability and discord. In a moral and political sense, it is a counsel of prudence in a fallen world, as one looks toward the future. One anticipates the future, however, with affect, and so readers operate by controlling hope and fear and following a mean not just of public self-presentation but also of internal discipline. Like the author protected by his defenselessness ("inermis"), the reader is a subject protected by his inwardness, the "interior man" theoretically untransformed by exterior change.

Map's imagined reader moves knowingly among the topics of history and fiction. At the end of the story of Sadius and Galo, Map distinguishes competent readers from those who misjudge the significance of his work, who might see it as a foolish and frivolous story and thereby risk becoming the topic of it themselves. The former are well-intentioned and incisive (benigni et arguti), and they recognize the mixed composition of Map's friuola: "for we know that the busy bee tastes both wormwood and thyme that it may gather into the treasure-house of wisdom the honeycomb it has collected both from bitter and from sweet, yes, and from such frivolities as it gathers too, by God's grace given to it, to the end it may choose and love the bitter paths of righteousness" (3.2).

Map returns to the image of the bee at a similar position in the story of Parius and Lausus, which is the inverse parallel of the story of loyalty and trust in Sadius and Gallo. Echard contends that Map's repetition makes a sharper division between good and bad readers.40 Here the image expresses the active construction of literary meaning. Map compares the bee and the reader in their shared capacity to extract and carry away something from their mixture of sources. Reading is not just a matter of persuasion, as in the rhetoric of praise and blame, but a form of attention and intellectual labor: "For he pores upon [instat] the letter and clings to it [adheret], holds no word disapproved [inuisam] till perused [peruisam], none overlooked [neclectam] till looked over [perlectam]" (3.3). Map's rhetorical contrasts in this passage (instat/adheret, inuisam/peruisam, neclectam/perlectam) trace a movement forward toward understanding—from approach to attachment, from rejection to attention, [End Page 282] from disregard to reading. The second element in each pair defines the task; taken together, they describe a process of acquiring, mastering, and scrutinizing the text. Map repeats this idea later in urging the value of reading about moderns: "for you should read and scrutinize every page you see, and not one should be disused [neclecta] without being perused [perlecta]" (5.1).

In Map's formulation, then, the onus of meaning falls explicitly on the reader rather than the author. The reader must penetrate the text to find meaning. Map describes this labor of sustained, invasive reading as a heroic enterprise, a contest or siege, rewarded at length by conquest: "yet in his persistent struggles to extract something helpful or pleasant, he stumbles upon new refinements [nouas argucias], better than the author's own" (3.3). The contest to reach meaning yields the pleasant and useful effects of Horace's literary decorum. But Map envisions a further possibility in discoveries produced by the effort itself. These unlooked-for subtleties (nouae argutiae) are generated by hermeneutics, and they reflect a power in reading that corresponds to the digressive freedom Map claims for writing.

Map's account thus sets up a proportion at the center of literary understanding: readers are to the discovery of meaning as writers are to the recording of history and fiction. At the end of Distinctio 2, Map sets his role explicitly in relation to his reader in the metaphors of forestry and hunting. He places the raw materials gathered from decentered writing—not stories but jottings—before his readers for them to transform into the finished objects of cultural circulation and currency: "Every reader must cut into shape the rough material that is here served up to him, that thanks to their pains it may go forth into the world with a fair outside" (2.32). His terms are fully consistent with those applied to readerly attention at the end of the Parius and Lausus story. The reader's sustained and difficult work, his "industria," is the means that transforms what the writer has found for him into something new and potentially better. The attractive surface or covering of his labor is the aesthetic analogue of the argutiae, the complex and brilliant insights, discovered by the triumphant reader in the other passage. In his second metaphor, Map stresses the transformative power of reading: "I bring you the game, it is for you to make dainty dishes out of it" (2.32). Map's venator is not the huntsman of Ovidian erotic elegy, who traps and holds his prey because he has, in theory at least, been able to discipline himself. Rather, the hunting metaphor is a counterpart to the solitary, inward work that Map sees in writing. His work reaches completion in the reader's transformation of the raw and wild materials ("feras") into the finished products of culture ("fercula"). [End Page 283]

IV. Allegories of Authorship

Map's self-reflexive commentary in the De nugis posits a theory of authorship based on a consciously decentered writer, materials chosen from the margins of literary discourse, and reading that completes the production of textual meaning. Though his writing is ostensibly commissioned, Map claims a place outside patronage in an imaginative sphere that is simultaneously inward and performative. He draws on episodes and topics found elsewhere but privileges this material because it represents what court culture rejects and dismisses. His materia offers new possibilities for writerly invention because it has not been deemed worthy of writing. The idealized reader Map imagines for his book is not a passive collector of moralizations drawn from exempla but the active creator of meaning, sometimes unforeseen meaning. In this sense, he is the figure who realizes what the writer has begun with his authorial gestures. Taken together, these features suggest a radical form of authorship within twelfth-century literary culture. Map commits himself to writing as a way of defining and exercising subjectivity inside the ambivalence of his historical context, the court to which he is simultaneously bound and exiled.

Map's authorship places him outside the epideictic role of other writers at Henry's court, on the margins of official discursive forms, and at the mercy of the reader who can match his wit, irony, play, and insight. One test of Map's claims for the aesthetic power of his position is to see whether and how far he incorporates these claims in the imaginative space of his own writing. By way of conclusion, I want to look briefly at three stories from the De nugis in which Map seems to explore some of the consequences of his theory of authorship and writing. The episode of the knight Waleran (5.5), as I read it, is a monitory example for Map's court persona. The story of Sceva and Ollo (4.16) illustrates the imaginative power to construct identity and social reality from rhetorical invention. The tale of Eudo (4.6) examines the sinister possibility that nugae embody a narrative logic that even their authors cannot escape. All three tales resituate the means of Map's theorizing—his themes, images, and language—within narratives whose literary artifice remains as a surplus beyond the interpretive machinery of exemplarity.

Waleran's story appears among the anecdotes recounting Louis VII's exemplary acts of justice and kindness. Though unlettered, Waleran is known for his wit at court, and he displays his talents by writing a satirical poem in French against the king's most powerful ministers and twice shaming a noble, if dissolute, woman in the king's family who then complains that Waleran has written obscene songs about her and the king (5.5). The complainants receive their vengeance when Waleran is proscribed, his holdings are destroyed, and he flees to Henry II's court [End Page 284] in England. Waleran regains Louis's favor through a strategem arranged with Henry. As the two kings confer in a field, Waleran approaches them, looking like the poorest man in the kingdom, but he is driven away as if he were a beggar. Louis is moved to compassion by this staged performance, and he sets in motion Waleran's restitution and reconciliation.

Waleran, as Levine notes, is a figure for Map's verbal wit and for the role of a satiric poet-jester.41 His satirical poems attack the predations of well-placed courtiers who have abused the trust placed in them by their king in order to enrich themselves. When Louis tells Waleran that he can bear the abuse allegedly directed to him but not to a kinswoman, a member of his family—"unum membrorum meorum" (5.5)—Waleran plays on the connotations of member: "A very sick member" ("Hoc herniosus es membro").42 Map notes that Waleran's French answer is wittier: "De ce membre es tu magrinez" ("You are lessened by this member"). Waleran then makes a joke out of the woman's insistence that three prostitutes scourge him for the laughter this wordplay has produced: she needs to find, he remarks to her, only two others to complete the avenging trio. This last incident is recounted only in Latin, but the first two are recorded in both Latin and French, and they depend on French as their mode of transmission and social efficacy. Map's introduction of the vernacular, as elsewhere in the De nugis, gestures toward the margins of discourse from which he invents his topics. Moreover, the scene of dramatized abasement that Waleran arranges with Henry in order to secure reconciliation with Louis is the same kind of spectacle that Map imagines for himself as an author. Waleran's filthy, impoverished appearance, which attracts Louis's notice, is the equivalent of Map's "nudus pugil." The dramatized violence of his being helplessly dragged off when he approaches the two kings occurs in the theatrical space that is also the site of Map's defenseless ("inermis") writing. Beforehand, Waleran has advised Henry of the spectacle he is about to see, and so he, like Map, is safe in his performance. The end of the episode both praises Louis and indulges the satirist's fantasy of exercising power and settling scores. Louis recognizes that the penalty given Waleran arose from a social and political misreading of language: "For a word he should have been chastened by words, not cudgelled and proscribed." Waleran's chief persecutor among the royal ministers comically overcompensates Waleran to head off any future disputes, while the king reconciles the knight with his other antagonists. Waleran's story, then, exactly retraces the alternation of prosperity and fall that Map finds common to history and fiction.

In my second example, the story of Sceva and Ollo, Map explores another facet of what his authorial theory entails. Like the anecdote about Waleran, the story is premised on disaffection, in this case the neglected [End Page 285] friendship of two merchants who have risen to prosperity together but then separate and establish their households in different cities. The narrative theme that shapes the story is division, first of the mercantile partnership that made their success and then of the emotional ties that they pledged to maintain even after they have moved apart. When Sceva goes to visit Olla but finds a cool reception, he exacts a calculated vengeance and indulges a rage that is given no other expression in the story. Sceva insinuates himself into Olla's house, seduces his wife, and conspires with his entire social world—the wife, the household, Olla's neighbors, the prince, sheriff, and judges—to refuse Olla entrance back into his house and to set himself up as a counterfeit Olla. The comic scene that takes place as Olla demands admission from his servants at the gate to his house rewrites Plautus's Amphitryon as a casuistic debate over being and knowledge.43 Olla asserts his identity: "My man, am I not I?" His servant Nicholas takes the rhetorical question literally and therefore comically: "I know you are you; are you in any doubt of it yourself?" He wonders only how the Olla he refuses to recognize can know so much about Olla's household (4.16).

In the slippage between what he is and what he talks about, Olla reproduces Map's opening comment in the De nugis about hell and the court: "in the court I exist and of the court I speak, but what the court is, God knows, I know not" (1.1). Furthermore, Sceva perversely demonstrates the readerly power to establish meaning in Map's texts. Map does not fully collapse fiction and reality in the story, but he finds a common ground in the play of language. Sceva's plan is described as a good trick, a bonus dolus that reverses the judicial term dolus malus, "willful deceit." Sceva, the "manager of the intrigue" ("preceptor fraudis") is a variant of Ovid's teacher of erotic craft, the "praeceptor amoris" in the Ars amatoria. At length, one of Olla's servants acknowledges Olla's identity and admits the truth of Sceva's ruse ("rei ueritatem scimus"). But Sceva has meanwhile acted as Map demands of his reader. His elegant and subtle joke ("faceta derisio"), devised after he observes and appraises Olla's household, recalls Map's attentive, invasive, and thorough reader (4.16). Sceva in fact carries out the possibility that Map leaves open to these readers, for he goes far beyond what he discovers about Olla's holdings in land and property. If Olla is literally and juridically the auctor of his household, as he rightly claims, Sceva is the reader who has created better refinements (meliores argucias), first in suborning household loyalty and the law and then in squandering Olla's holdings. At the end of the story, Sceva has so overmastered Olla that Olla accepts the better fiction of Sceva's devising and resigns any claims against him. The claims he foreswears are ironically the truth of his identity and domestic authorship.

The inner logic of narrative is exploited in the Sceva and Olla story to express vicarious comic aggression, but it takes on a sinister form in [End Page 286] Map's story of Eudo and points up the constraints of Map's theorizing. The story reenacts the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32) to horrifying and tragic effect in a pact with the devil. Eudo squanders his inheritance but eventually acknowledges his abasement. His recognition occurs in a moment of dissociation in which a demon appears to him. Eudo knows that he has encountered a demon in a true vision and realizes fully that he is the demon's prey. The demon assuages his anxiety, however, by promising three warnings to prompt Eudo's repentance before his death. He describes his own powers in terms that evoke Map's authorship and his reputation for wit among his contemporaries: "Skilled in comical tricks and delusions, we do, I confess, cast glamour, contrive hallucinations, cause apparitions so as to veil reality and produce a false and absurd appearance. We can do anything that makes for laughter, but nothing that makes for tears" (4.6). The comic demons acquire knowledge, craft, and the capacity to judge and anticipate events; these they pass along to their subjects who exercise ludic power in the arts of war and governance.

In an embedded exemplum of the demon Morpheus and a monk whom Morpheus leads into sin, the demon who appears to Eudo illustrates that these powers create a sustained interim of play, for the monk escapes all punishment for his scandalous excess in the story's mock-comic resolution. The demon thus interprets his text as if it were one of Map's exemplary anecdotes, confirmed as it is by first-person witness and presented as a notable, if frivolous, story: "This, I tell you, Morpheus did, and I am his brother, and we often indulge in such amusing jests." Abjuring the hunt for souls, the demons are the seemingly unarmed authors of play: "Among the living we practise laughable tricks or make earnest jest" (4.6). Once Eudo accepts the devil's bargain, he begins a perverse reformation as a brigand, regaining worldly possessions while giving himself up to unregulated depravity. The warnings given by his demonic master Olga bring temporary repentance, followed in each case by a return to sin. Map sketches a wonderfully parodic scene of moral instruction in which Olga urges penance as a guarantee of God's power and a prudent measure, lest the limitations of the demon's foresight accidentally condemn him and thus bring their agreement into disrepute.

The crucial feature of Map's story is not, however, the Faustian legalism of Eudo's pact with the devil or the moral lesson that the habit of sin subtly erodes the efficacy of the will by creating a second, alien nature within one's character. The story shows, rather, that the logic of narrative produces the constraint of writing that Map seeks to escape by decentering authorship, inventing material outside higher genres, and investing his readers with the authority to interpret and go beyond his story. Eudo repents after the death of his son and his own symbolic funeral on a bed [End Page 287] of ashes. He obtains forgiveness from those he has injured, and these people accompany him to petition the bishop of Beauvais for absolution, which will complete the sacrament of penance. Like Waleran, Eudo performs repentance with wretched clothing, a transformed body, and a sympathetic audience seeking full reconciliation. A skilled rhetorician and abject figure of contrition, Eudo aligns the spectacle and reality of penance. Map insists on the truth of his intention in a three-fold repetition of the adjective uerus: "he, in true contrition . . . with such sincerity of heart, such genuine tears" (4.6).

In the bishop whose absolution he has betrayed repeatedly Eudo encounters the reader who refuses to believe the spectacle and accept the witness of those who have made peace with Eudo. Map's language echoes and reverses the terms of idealized reading. The bishop refuses the labor of thorough and attentive reading: "The bishop refused [negat] and went on refusing [pernegat] and continued in complete denial." He does not penetrate the text like Map's incisive, heroic reader but instead makes himself the surface that cannot be opened or entered: "He shut up his bowels of mercy against him and hardened his heart, not to heal the sick; firmly resolved not to be tricked again, he hardened himself wholly into iron" (4.6). The bishop thus reverses the contrasts and the forward movement toward meaning that Map outlines earlier (3.3). He dismisses Eudo's contrition as disproved (inuisam/neclectam) because he does not see it thoroughly (peruisam/perlectam).

In only one ironic sense does the bishop follow Map's decorum of reading. He is preparing to burn a sorceress when Eudo and the others approach him to seek forgiveness. The bishop improvidently sets a test for Eudo's intentions that is also retribution for his sins: "I lay upon you for your sins that you leap into that fire" (4.6). The bishop's stipulation is the noua argutia of Map's story, the subtlety that is simultaneously cunning and incisive. Eudo has already expressed contrition and made a full confession to the bishop, including this time a disclosure of his subjugation to Olga and other terrible secret doings. He has not been trapped in the traditional literalism of the devil's pact, yet he accepts the literalism of the bishop's penance by leaping into the fire. Eudo's self-immolation thus pushes the story to the conceptual limits of Map's theorizing about authorship and writing. Map questions Eudo's zeal and condemns the bishop's obduracy, but he cannot unwrite the logic of his story or the unseen possibilities it holds.

Map's stories offer a valuable perspective on his theorizing, for they not only illustrate its chief components but also reveal the complex position of authorship as a position in the social sphere. Waleran's wit divides into the dicta that furnish court amusement and the facta of authorial performance, which secures his restoration and reconciliation. Sceva's [End Page 288] fictive identity as Olla is a dolus, at once a trick and a deceit, sustained by social consensus and ratified by Olla's abandonment of any claim against it. Sceva's authorial triumph stands against the realization that all other social bonds—those between friends, man and wife, master and servants, householder and neighbors, citizen and magistrates—have meanwhile collapsed. Eudo's story locates authorship and inventive power in the demonic. It is only when Eudo reenters the social sphere, seeking to rejoin a community of believers, that he falls victim to the slippery literalism of language and promises. In these stories, Map not only satirizes the social domain but also unveils the deep contradictions within the imaginative space claimed by authorship. He discovers in writing the paradox of binding and exile that authorship works to escape.

In the De nugis curialium, Map represents authorship and writing in ways that invite us to rethink a writer's relation to context and literary tradition. Map depends on the radical ambivalence generated by court culture, above all its capacity to define and alienate its subjects. Where he differs from his contemporaries as a satirist and purveyor of court amusements is in his commitment to writing as a form of identity and source of knowledge. In an age of great historical writing, Map takes on the role of an overmatched, defenseless agonist who asserts that the modern and the marginal have just claims on attention and that skilled reading releases the unstable potential of meaning. He differs, too, in his appreciation of what this willful liberation from context and tradition can entail. Map's awareness of the constraints that authorship and writing impose, of the paradox of imaginative freedom as a means of refuge, reaches beyond the historical limits of medieval court culture. It draws him back toward Ovid's self-inauguration as a counterimperial elegist and forward to the troubled meditations on art and poetry that we find in early modern figures like Marlowe and Shakespeare. Map offers us a point of entry into a literary history in which the powers of artfulness also furnish the materials for their own critique.

Robert R. Edwards
The Pennsylvania State University
Robert R. Edwards

Robert R. Edwards is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at The Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Chaucer and Boccaccio: Antiquity and Modernity (2002) and The Dream of Chaucer: Representation and Reflection in Chaucer’s Early Narrative (1989) and of books on the poetics of medieval lyric and narrative (1989) and drama (1977). He has edited John Lydgate’s Siege of Thebes (2001) and Troy Book (1998) and the poetry of Guido Guinizelli (1987). His latest book is The Flight from Desire: Augustine and Ovid to Chaucer (2006).


1. Egbert Türk, Nugae curialium: Le règne d’Henri II Plantagenêt (1145–1189) et l’éthique politique (Geneva: Droz, 1977), 177, identifies Geoffrey as the controversial secular clerk Geoffrey Ridel, royal administrator, chief justice, and later bishop of Ely.

2. A. G. Rigg, A History of Anglo-Latin Literature 1066–1422 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992), 88–89.

3. C. Stephen Jaeger, The Origins of Courtliness: Civilizing Trends and the Formation of Courtly Ideals 939–1210 (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1985), 55, identifies Henry II’s court as the most prolific center of the curial satire that emerged in the mid-twelfth century. Türk notes that the court Map inhabited for some thirty years was an object of [End Page 289] external ideological conflict as well as rivalrous, internal strife, as royal government asserted its independence from ecclesiastical tutelage (Türk, Nugae curialium, xv).

4. Peter of Blois, Letter 14 in Patrologia Latina 207:43. Peter moderates his views of the court and the roles of clerics in Letter 150 in Patrologia Latina 207:439–42.

5. Peter Dronke, The Medieval Poet and His World (Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1984), 308, sees Peter of Blois as more seriously engaged in satire than Map or John of Salisbury.

6. The genre, tradition, and composition of the De nugis curialium are recurring issues in the scholarship, and the list of forms I give is a conflation of the descriptions offered in modern scholarship.

7. Gualteri Mapes De Nugis Curialium Distinctiones Quinque, ed. Thomas Wright (London: Camden Society, 1850), viii; Walter Map, De Nugis Curialium, ed. Montague Rhodes James (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1914), xxiv; James Hinton, “Walter Map’s De Nugis Curialium: Its Plan and Composition,” PMLA 32 (1917): 116; Lewis Thorpe, “Walter Map and Gerald of Wales,” Medium Ævum 47 (1978): 6.

8. Rigg, A History, 92–93.

9. G. T. Shepherd, “The Emancipation of Story in the Twelfth Century,” in Medieval Narrative: A Symposium, ed. Hans Bekker-Nielsen, Peter Foote, Andreas Haarder, and Preben Meulengracht Sørensen (Odense: Odense Univ. Press, 1979), 53.

10. Robert Levine, “How to Read Walter Map,” Mittellateinische Jahrbuch 23 (1988): 95, 105.

11. Siân Echard, “Map’s Metafiction: Author, Narrator and Reader in De Nugis Curialium,” Exemplaria 8 (1996): 292.

12. On Henry II’s court as a literary center, see Reto R. Bezzola, Les origines et la formation de la littérature courtoise en occident (500–1200), 3 vols. (Paris: Champion, 1984), 3:3–207, and Susan Crane, “Anglo-Norman Cultures in England, 1066–1460,” in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999), 41–43. Tony Davenport, “Sex, Ghosts, and Dreams: Walter Map (1135?–1210?) and Gerald of Wales (1146–1223),” in Writers of the Reign of Henry II: Twelve Essays, ed. Ruth Kennedy and Simon Meecham-Jones (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 133–50, offers a skeptical appraisal of the evidence for Henry’s support of literature and suggests instead that his interests lay in courtliness rather than courtly literature.

13. I quote M. R. James’s translation and cite the Latin text only where Map’s terms are necessary to the discussion; see Walter Map, De nugis curialium; Courters’ Trifles, ed. and trans. M. R. James, rev. ed. C. L. N. Brooke and R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983). Unless otherwise noted, all citations refer to the Distinctio and chapter of the De nugis and will be given in the text.

14. K. G. T. Webster, “Walter Map’s French Things,” Speculum 15 (1940): 272–74, identifies the chief passages where Map discusses his authorship as a form of poetic or philosophical discourse; see also James, rev. ed., xxxiv, for a review of the passages.

15. James’s translation of this passage does not convey the sense of minting and forging in the verb cudere or of logical inference and conclusion in inferre. James, rev. ed., xxiv, Hinton, 127–28, and Webster, 272–74, construe Map’s use of the terms philosophari and poetari as synonyms meaning literary composition.

16. In Boethius’s translation of Aristotle’s Topica and De sophisticis elenchis and in John of Salisbury’s Metalogicon, “falsigrafum” refers to bad reasoning in geometry and logic.

17. Augustine, Confessionum libri XIII [1.8.13], ed. M. Skutella, rev. Lucas Verheijen, CCSL 27 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1981), 7.

18. Religatum/relegatum echoes the etymology of religio given by Cicero in De natura deorum 2.72 and cited by Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 10.234; Lactantius rejects the etymology in Diuinae Institutiones 4.28.3.

19. What I argue about Map’s authorship at a conceptual level is closely related to what Margaret Sinex calls his echoic irony, a practice in which the second element in a pair of [End Page 290] terms both echoes and interprets the content of the first term; see Sinex, “Echoic Irony in Walter Map’s Satire against the Cistercians,” Comparative Literature 54 (2002): 277.

20. Augustine, Confessions 1.8.13: “uitae humanae procellosam societatem.”

21. John of Salisbury, Policraticus 7.19 uses the figure of the braying ass in a disquisition on ecclesiastical ambition and makes the biblical episode a figure of interpretation—the spirit that hides in the letter. Christopher Lucken, “Eloge de l’Ane,” Reinardus 11 (1998): 110, takes the braying of the ass as a sign of truth emanating not from a divine source but from the world.

22. Beginning with Richard Helgerson’s Self-Crowned Laureates: Spenser, Jonson, Milton and the Literary System (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1983), literary studies of the English Renaissance have examined various ways in which poets and writers define their roles, professions, and careers. I am particularly indebted to Patrick Cheney’s trilogy of studies on Renaissance authorship: Spenser’s Famous Flight: A Renaissance Idea of a Literary Career (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1993); Marlowe’s Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1997); and Shakespeare, National Poet-Playwright (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004). The discussion of authorship has its roots in works like W. R. Johnson, “The Problem of the Counter-Classical Sensibility and its Critics,” California Studies in Classical Antiquity 3 (1970): 123–51.

23. Distinctio has the rhetorical and logical meaning of specifying the meaning of a word, but Map’s contemporaries also use the term to refer to the section of a book. For these senses in the medieval English vernacular tradition, see Nicholas Perkins, “Reading the Bible in Sawles Warde and Ancrene Wisse,” Medium Ævum 72 (2003): 207–37.

24. The pairing of inermis and nudus is cited from Lucretius onwards (De rerum natura 5.1289). Cicero, De finibus bonorum et malorum 1.7.22 uses it to mean “unprepared, not well versed.”

25. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 15.2.34 and 18.42.1. Boethius, whose commentary on Porphyry is the source for Map’s discussion of the genus of Hell (1.1), describes theater as a part of spectacle in order to illustrate the common properties shared by objects having a common substance: Boethius, In Isagogen Porphyrii commenta [1.10], ed. G. Schepss and S. Brandt, CSEL 48 (Vienna: Tempsky, 1906), 162.

26. Map contrasts his uncertain position with the security and repose conferred by retirement on ecclesiastical writers like Gilbert Foliot, Bartholomew of Exeter, and Baldwin of Worcester (1.12). At the end of the “Dissuasio Valerii,” Map makes Gilbert a figure of heroic resistance who continues to write despite offended readers and blindness (4.5).

27. Dorothy M. Schullian, “Valerius Maximus and Walter Map,” Speculum 12 (1937): 516, notes that scribes who copied the “Dissuasio Valerii” attributed it to the Roman writer Valerius Maximus. A. G. Rigg, “Walter Map, The Shaggy Dog Story, and the Quaestio Disputata,” in Roma, Magistra Mundi: Itineraria Culturae Medievalis—Mélanges offerts au Père L. E. Boyle à l’occasion de son 75e anniversaire (Louvain-la-Neuve: Fédération Internationale des Instituts d’Études Médiévales, 1998), 725 n5, suggests that Map reabsorbed the tract into the De nugis in order to reclaim authorship.

28. Alberto Vàrvaro, Apparizioni fantastiche: Tradizioni folcloriche e letteratura nel medioevo: Walter Map (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1994), 15–19; and Gilda Caiti-Russo, “Situation actuelle de Gautier Map, Écrivain fantastique,” Revue des langues romanes 101 (1997): 127.

29. Levine, “How to Read,” 92, quoting Thorpe, “Walter Map and Gerald of Wales,” 9, who argues against the manuscript title of the De nugis and observes that Map’s contemporary Bothewold twice refers to Map’s “nugae.”

30. Horace’s decorum informs both the stories Map defers telling at the beginning of Distinctio 2 and the ones he is directed to collect at the beginning of Distinctio 3.

31. Vàrvaro, Apparizioni, 27–32, 48; see also Caiti-Russo, “Situation actuelle,” 132.

32. Master Walter Map’s Book, De nugis curialium (Courtiers’ Trifles), trans. Frederick Tupper and Marbury Bladen Ogle (London: Chatto & Windus, 1924), 78; Marylène Perez, trans., [End Page 291] Contes des courtisans: traduction du De nugis curialium de Gautier Map (Lille: Centre d’études médiévales et dialectales, Université de Lille III, 1988), 83.

33. Map subsequently describes Henry’s publication of his itinerary (5.6) as a means of bringing order.

34. Siân Echard, “Clothes Make the Man: The Importance of Appearance in Walter Map’s De Gadone milite strenuissimo,” in Anglo-Latin and its Heritage: Essays in Honour of A. G. Rigg on his 64th Birthday, ed. Siân Echard and Gernot R. Wieland (Turnhout: Brepols, 2001), 99–100, observes that Map’s terms for describing Henry II are applied to the story of Gado and Offa (2.17), which also shows Map’s skeptical reading of Geoffrey of Monmouth, the source for Arthurian material in medieval English historiography.

35. The playful respite from business and serious reading that Map takes as his own space of writing in 3.1 has its source in the order of Henry I’s court: “and this king’s court was in the forenoon a school of virtues and of wisdom, and in the afternoon one of hilarity and decent mirth” (5.5).

36. Douglas Kelly’s studies of invention remain fundamental to understanding the means for composing in high literary culture in the Middle Ages: “The Scope of the Treatment of Composition in the Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Arts of Poetry,” Speculum 41 (1966): 261–78, and “Theory of Composition in Medieval Narrative Poetry and Geoffrey of Vinsauf’s Poetria Nova,” Mediæval Studies 31 (1969): 117–48.

37. Monika Otter, Inventiones: Fiction and Referentiality in Twelfth-Century English Historical Writing (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1996), 128, argues that for Map and others the textuality of historical writing simultaneously entails uncertainties about reference.

38. Traugott Lawler, “Medieval Annotation: The Example of the Commentaries on Walter Map’s Dissuasio Valerii,” in Annotation and Its Texts, ed. Stephen A. Barney (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), 96. Lawler goes on to propose that the last two-thirds of the “Dissuasio Valerii” is Map’s authorial annotation of the first third (97).

39. Map offers a parallel conceit to the hygiene of reading in the hard but healing hand of the surgeon (4.4).

40. Echard, “Map’s Metafiction,” 312. The bad readers—the “impii”—described here, in echoes of Psalm 1:4 and Revelation 22:11, recur in Map’s imagined reception of the “Dissuasio Valerii”: “for they hate before they have heard, scoff before they scrutinise, envy before they view” (4.2).

41. Levine, “How to Read,” 96.

42. Literally: “You are ruptured by this member.”

43. Vàrvaro, Apparizioni, 166–67, reviews the sources and analogues from Plautus through the Italian novelle of the Quattrocento. [End Page 292]

Additional Information

Print ISSN
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.