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CONTEXT AND MANUSCRIPT DISCOURSE IN LATE MEDIEVAL CASTILE Vincent Barletta University of Colorado, Boulder Scholars committed to the study of medieval literature and its cultural context face a number of serious challenges. Paramount among these is the question of how to speak with adequate specificity of the processes by which participants in text-mediated discourse (e.g., authors , scribes, readers) made use of such discourse to shape and transform their social world. Having moved beyond theoretical frameworks that conceive of cultural context as a mere backdrop to literary production and use (and literature as a reflection, however refracted, of that backdrop), scholars of medieval literature and cultures often find themselves in the difficult situation of having to provide concrete accounts of dynamic and complex cultural processes -such as the discursive give-and-take through which context is achieved- armed at times with what appear to be only the thinnest shreds of empirical evidence . Despite such difficulty, there have been far-reaching attempts by literary critics, linguists, and historians to address the issue of medieval literature and its relation to socially-embedded interaction and praxis. Much of the New Philology, especially the work of Bernard Cerquiglini, seems to have been inspired by a desire both to speak of written discourse as something more than decontextualized residue and to support such theorizing with concrete, linguistic evidence situated in manuscripts. Studies such as Suzanne Fleischman's contribution to the 1990 special issue of Speculum dedicated to the New Philology , which partially surveys Cerquiglini's work, should be read as important first steps in a growing research trend that has sought to "recontextualize [medieval] texts as acts of communication, thereby acknowledging the extent to which linguistic structure is shaped by La corónica 30.1 (Fall, 2001): 3-35 4 Vincent BarlettaLa coránica 30.1, 2001 the pressures of discourse" (Fleischman, "Philology, Linguistics" 37). While ultimately too unreflexive about its own ideological stance vis-àvis postmodern theory and "traditional" philology (not to mention structural linguistics), the New Philology nonetheless represents a significant attempt to address the intersection of language and culture within medieval texts. An even more radical approach has been that ofJohn Dagenais, whose "ethics of reading" goes so far as to conceive of the focal point of medieval literary study as: ... the process by which an individual, concrete manuscript book came into being, grew through accretions of gloss, commentary , and irrelevant marginal jottings, moved through both space and time, and was, in many cases, transformed into another individual, concrete manuscript book. (The Ethics ofReading 18) Behind this accretive process are human agents that make active use of their memory and practical intellect (Mary Carruthers 68-69) to make ethical choices and take action in a "real world of flux" (The Ethics ofReading 89). That these activities are in some cases mediated by another set of activities, namely those associated with the reading of manuscript books, is what allows Dagenais to theorize a link between medieval literature and social praxis. Basing his formulization of the "ethics of reading" in part on the work of Judson B. Allen and Carruthers, Dagenais maps out a research method through which marginal notes, glosses, and other forms of discourse on the manuscript page (those that have largely been ignored by the philological paradigm) serve as evidence of readers' adaptation of written texts. These acts of adaptation in turn suggest culturally-bounded modes of application by which readers acted on what they read within their social world (The Ethics ofReading 56-79). That these readers often returned to the manuscript folio to generate written texts shaped by such socially-embedded acts of reading (such as Juan Ruiz's re-working of the Pamphilus for the Libro de buen amor) is what Dagenais means by his only partially tongue-in-cheek suggestion that we transfer our attention from literature to "lecturature" (The Ethics ofReading 20-26). The present paper, largely inspired by the work of Dagenais as well as by the provocative suggestions of philologists regarding the discourse -pragmatic functions of narrative discourse (e.g., Fleischman, "A Linguistic Perspective"; Michèle Perret, Le signe et la mention), represents a further examination of the relation between medieval lit- Context...


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