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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER The audience for Lester's book is explicitly defined as "the general reader and beginning student" (p. 3). No knowledge of Old or Middle English is assumed, but Lester writes: "The language was itselfthe sub­ tlest expression ofthe whole culture. To understand all its complexities is an impossible task, but to make the attempt immeasurably increases the pleasure and value of a reader's experience" (p. 10). The book is in­ tended to function as neither grammar nor primer, however; instead, it appears to be designed as a supplementary text for those who are learn­ ing (or preparing to learn) to read Old or Middle English, serving to increase their appreciation for medieval poets' skilled manipulation of diction and syntax for poetic effect. These ends it serves admirably well, though at nearly forty dollars, it is probably too expensive to assign as a student course-text. THOMAS A. BREDEHOFT University of Northern Colorado JUNE HALL McCASH, ed. The Cultural Patronage of Medieval Women. Athens, Ga. and London: University ofGeorgia Press, 1996. Pp. xix, 402. $60.00 cloth; $25.00 paper. This meticulously edited collection of twelve essays seeks "to explore the varieties and to test the limits ofwomen's patronage" (p. 3). The ap­ peal made by Rita Lejeune in 1976 for a general work on the patronage ofmedieval women inspired McCash's labor. With its intention to "hear once again voices that might otherwise have remained silent forever" (p. 1), the volume is largely shaped by the methodological concerns of "herstory" that informed feminist scholarship twenty years ago. It constitutes women as historical agents through painstaking work of recuperation of archival sources, both textual and material (visual and decorative arts and architecture), and the recovery of bibliography. Exemplary in this respect are McCash's overview of cultural patronage ofmedieval women, essays on patterns ofwomen's literary patronage in England from 1200 to ca. 1475 by Karen K. Jambeck, and a survey of the patronage of Plantagenet Queens by John Carmi Parsons. Specific studies ofelite women include essays on Elizabeth de Burgh by Frances A. Underhill, Matilda of Scotland by Lois L. Huneycutt, Isabel of Portugal by Charity Cannon Willard and Leonor of England and her 298 REVIEWS daughters by Miriam Shadis. Essays on the Empress Theodora and on women's role in Latin letters by Anne L. McClanan andJoan M. Ferrante, respectively, offer chronological and geographic perspectives. Madeline H. Caviness's study of women's patronage of the visual arts argues for the blurring of boundaries among patrons, donors, recipients, and users and also emphasizes the strong interest in genealogical projects among elite medieval women. Located as they always were in between their natal and conjugal families, their patronage could refigure genre. Take for instance Matthew Paris's vita of St. Edmund, which he translated into a French metrical version for Isabella de Fortibus, countess of Arundel. The Latin hagiography that Matthew renders as romance transforms itself through its dedication to the Countess into a political genealogy commemorating the Marshal rebels to whom Isabel was re­ lated through her maternal grandmother. The intersections between genre, gender, diglossia, and translation at stake in the life of St. Edmund raise important disciplinary questions about the project of this volume. Why the return of herstory (there is no entry for gender in the volume's index) in the mid-1990s when the study of gender has made trouble in medieval studies? In his foreward, Stephen G. Nichols emphasizes that "female patronage played a key role in the evolution of the mother tongue from the status of purely in­ formal speech to a stage where, without losing consciousness of its role as discourse, it also functioned as a language, langue, in the sense that Latin was a language, lingua" (p. xv). The oxymoronic valence of "female patron" risks going unremarked in this celebration of women's agency. The root of vernacularity, as Gabrielle Spiegel reminds us in Romancing the Past (Berkeley: Univer­ sity of California Press, 1993), derives etymologically from verna, a houseborn slave (p. 66). The root forpatron comes from a term in Roman law for one who owns slaves. Thus the concatenated terms,femalepatron of...


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