Patronage regularly figures as the dominant paradigm in discussions of late-medieval literary production and circulation. Common practice dictates that behind every text, a patron-figure looms, typically identified as a member of nobility for whom the text was composed. Many medieval texts promote this view by spotlighting extratextual relations in dedication materials or by folding into the narrative itself the story of its inception. Regardless of the source of these narratives, scholarship places under the patronage umbrella a large spectrum of exchanges said to have fostered the literary enterprise while excluding other partnerships that are seen to destabilize the system. Thus, transactions as distinctive as Guillaume de Machaut’s Confort d’amy, presented as an unsolicited text intended to comfort the imprisoned Charles of Navarre; Jean Froissart’s fictive account of literary collaboration with a prince in the Prison amoureuse; Christine de Pizan’s biography of Charles V, identified in the prologue as a commission ordered by the duke of Burgundy; and Geoffrey Chaucer’s dedication of Troilus and Criseyde to fellow poet John Gower and the lawyer Ralph Strode are presented as forms of patronage with little thought to the implications of the relational variations. At the same time, a number of transactions are sidelined in patronage studies because they seem to transgress the boundaries of expected exchange, even though they reproduce many of the same dynamics; hence, regifting, seizure of books, multi-copy dissemination of a single work, and purchase of a book from a third party regularly fail to figure into analysis. To date, scholars have avoided interrogating these arbitrary boundaries that define patronage studies. Critical avoidance of the heterogeneity of literary support networks is further exacerbated by a generalized failure to interrogate the impact of time, place, or cultural practices on sponsorship, not to mention possible manipulations of this exchange based on political, economic or personal concerns.


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pp. 145-154
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