In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

REVIEWS85 The resolution to AstelPs hermeneutical dilemma is already touched upon in her book and only requires fuller development on her part. Astell notes howJoan herself was an 'artist' of sorts in expressing her visions and prophecies, imaginatively inventing her identity and mission for her fifteenth-century audiences, both friend and foe. Astell might simply argue that every construction ofJoan ofArc, beginning with that of Joan herself in the fifteenth-century, is a construction of historical reality that is 'inescapably autobiographical.' JANE MARIE PINZINO University of Puget Sound keith busby, Codex and Context: Reading OldFrench Verse Narrative in Manuscript, 2 vols. Faux Titre: Etudes de langue et littératures françaises, 221. Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi, 2002. Pp. xi, 484, 941. isbn: 90-420-1379-6. vol. 1, 90 (euros); vol. 2, $85 (euros). As Keith Busby notes in the Afterword, 'each of the individual chapters has the potential to become the subject ofa book ifexplored in further detail' (p. 815). One might go further to say that at least two of the seven chapters of this 941-page twovolume study, are virtually books in their own right, or at the least, monographs. Reading this study cover-to-cover can be an exhilarating yet daunting task, given the vastness of its scope and the wealth of highly detailed information. Codex and Context is a monumental undertaking, to be applauded at almost every turn, for the trustworthiness of its scholarship, its inspiration, its sheer presence. It is a groundbreaking work as well, for much of its detail and analyses has never been brought together before in this way and on this scale. Reservations are few and more often concern tone and organization rather than methodology. The central materials for this study are almost exclusively chansons de geste, romances, and fabliaux from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries found in manuscripts from primarily the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Chapter 1, 'Manufacture and Sale,' focuses principally on the Parisian book trade involving manuscripts from the second half of the twelfth century up to 1400. Since the majority of the scribes were anonymous, evidence from sources such as tax rolls tells us more about other participants in the book trade, including binders, parchmenters, illuminators, and booksellers. Busby argues for an 'even earlier movement towards a lay setting' than the end of the twelfth century (p. 17). In addition, patterns ofcommissioning and ownership by the French aristocracy suggest that the members of that class, especially women, may have had wider interests than has previously been assumed. He goes on to point out that since the 'book trade in towns such as Arras or Amiens could not have existed on aristocratic commissions alone' (p. 56), the merchant and administrative classes may have patronized the same workshops. Busby notes that while 'no records have survived of members of the bourgeoisie commissioning manuscripts (although they bequeathed them)' (p. 56), the presence of'urban texts' alongside romance and epic narrative suggests that the public for these codices is broader than previously calculated. Although not stated as explicitly as elsewhere in the book, here we find 86ARTHURIANA one of Busby's principal themes: that medievalists must have a more thorough understanding of manuscript contexts than they currently do (at least in North America, he asserts). Chapter 2, 'Varieties ofScribal Behaviour' would have more happily been (for many readers) the initial chapter ofthe book, with Chapter 1 accompanying Chapter 6, 'Geography of the Codex' and Chapter 7, 'Ownership,' since it is in Chaptet 2 that Busby more fully articulates his major premise, that only through understanding manuscript production can we appreciate the range ofliterary creativity and cultural attitudes toward reading and performance, language and authority, in the Middle Ages. Busby agrees with Bernard Cerquiglini in asserting that 'there is no point in berating scribes for betraying their models, consciously or unconsciously' (p. 60) {Élogede la variante: histoire critiquede L·philologie, Paris: Seuil, 1989). Rather, it is essential that we understand a fuller range ofscribal behavior—and in order to do this we have to change our own behavior so that we cease to look at scribes as 'the poor monk or other lackey endlessly copying like an automaton material which probably did...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 85-88
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.