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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER the vernacular. The battle over truth-claims between the paternal and maternal tongue are ultimately conservative, since they simply reverse, and do not question, the structures of institutional dominion of Latin literacy. Thus historicized, the question of the "female patron of ver­ nacularity" has paradox to offer. The contributors, especially Madeline H. Caviness, John Carmi Parsons, and Ralph Hanna III, attempt to grapple with the contradic­ tions of a too easy and unhistoricized assumption of agency for the "fe­ male patron," but they stop short of articulating a crucial theoretical question posed by the volume: How does patronage function as a set of textual and material relations long inflected by gender? Readers who wish to follow through with this question will find suggestive parallels in Helen Solterer's study of the "female master" in her book The Master and Minerva: Disputing Women in French Medieval Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). Christine dePizan, a "female mas­ ter" and a "female patron," can instruct us about the risks to contem­ porary medieval scholars of leaving unaddressed the contradictions of agency embedded in the duality of the "female patron." Christine in­ sisted on calling herself the son (le fils) of her father. In so doing she marks the homosociality of genealogy and patronage while at the same time resisting it through disclosure. Such tactics raise questions for the readers of this volume who read it in the "corporate" academy of the late 1990s, in which patronage rules as government and other funding for feminist and queer scholarship and pedagogy becomes increasingly scarce and contested. KATHLEEN BIDDICK University of Notre Dame RuTH MORSE. The Medieval Medea. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996. Pp. xvi, 267. $72.00. Ruth Morse is a meticulous scholar, and in The Medieval Medea she has produced a study worthy of her thoroughness. Hers is a sweeping sub­ ject: as she establishes elaborately, the story of Jason and the Argonauts is the earliest secular quest narrative recorded in Western literature. Over it looms the inescapable presence of Medea, constantly (as Morse 300 REVIEWS has it) infusing the tale with a ubiquitous dark vitality even on those few occasions when Jason is center stage alone. In format the book has an almost old-fashioned feel, scarcely uncom­ fortable but not much encountered these days when, like as not, ideol­ ogy is pressed upon us more frequently than scholarship. Morse unfolds her study chronologically, piecing together the beginnings of the Jason legend from what we find remaining in Pindar, Euripides, and Apollonius of Rhodes among the Greeks, and then tracing its develop­ ment at the hands of Virgil, Ovid, and Seneca. In this process of "hand­ ing down," Medea became not only a single character but a topos as well: the eponym for the woman possessed by passion and driven by it to ter­ rifying excesses of every kind. Also along the way a great deal of what passed for history was transferred, and Morse guides us here through Dares and Dictys and Benoit de Sainte-Maure (the Argonauts and their Colchian cargo reach modernity via Troy) to Guido delle Colonne (whose Historia Destructionis Troiae "was the direct source of so many medieval interpretations" [p. 92}) to Christine de Pizan in the Mutacion de Fortune. What Morse is intent upon showing is how "what we might categorize as mythographical material [becomes} the highest-prestige medieval historiography" (p. 102). Nor is she interested in doing so without com­ menting sharply here, as in her earlier study Truth and Convention in the Middle Ages: Rhetoric, Reality and Representation (1991), on the tendency of contemporary historians to misread the past according to their own conventions. What Morse offers instead (indeed it might be the core con­ cept of the book) is a Heisenbergian caveat about the dangers of believ­ ing what you can see to measure, and an appropriate antidote: to follow the bloom back to the root, to focus especially on the context. Since a great deal of the context Morse must examine is provided by Ovid, she devotes two chapters (out of five) to a careful scrutiny of the Roman poet and his subsequent Christian adaptors...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 300-302
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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