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Reviewed by:
  • Performing Medieval Text ed. by Ardis Butterfield, Henry Hope, and Pauline Souleau
  • Michael Tilby
Performing Medieval Text. Edited by Ardis Butterfield, Henry Hope, and Pauline Souleau. Cambridge: Legenda, 2017. xii + 217 pp., ill.

This edited volume presents and enacts a wide variety of ways of engaging with medieval literary and musical culture through its textual representations, which simultaneously record, incite, and constitute performances. As such, the collection itself participates in the ceaseless intertextual, cross-temporal va-et-vient between writer-performers, reader-performers, and performing texts that its chapters describe. Henry Hope and Pauline Souleau’s Introduction situates the volume among its predecessors and interlocutors while staking out its own responsive position of ‘openness, complexity, and diversity’ (p. 8). The volume’s approach mediates between notions of ‘performance’ and ‘performativity’ from J. L. Austin onwards, while refusing any notion of fixity or codification. Instead, through its emphasis on mobile, interdisciplinary exchange, the volume advocates the ‘modification, nuance, and disagreement’ (ibid.) which enrich and fruitfully complicate study of the protean notion of performance. The collection can therefore be read in various ways. Each contribution spotlights a separate temporally and linguistically situated object of study, and can of course be read in isolation. Next, a number of chapter groupings offer productive and provocative dialogue on related questions and themes; these combinations are suggested in the Introduction and cross-referenced in each text. Finally, the volume rewards being read in its entirety: the editors and contributors have worked collaboratively to reflect and interweave the chapters’ interests and concerns. Thus the collection truly constitutes, as Hope and Souleau propose, ‘a dialogue with twelve interlocutors’ (p. 6). Elizabeth Eva Leach’s chapter, on the double sense of the phrase ‘performing manuscripts’, negotiates transitions between seeing and hearing, performing and recording, text and sound. Franz Körndle’s examination of medieval musicians and their patron saint, Job, considers the ontology of musical performance. Catherine Léglu addresses traces of memory and performance in the oral and written transmission of lyric poetry, following Samson and Delilah from Latin to Occitan. Annemari Ferreira discusses the insertion of skaldic verse into Norse sagas as a [End Page 622] performance event. Matthew Cheung Salisbury compares Austin’s performative utterances to Thomas Aquinas’s analysis of the functioning of the sacraments, while Jennifer Rushworth considers liturgical performance in Dante’s Purgatorio, and performances of Dante’s poetry in modern liturgy. Charlotte E. Cooper examines the ways in which Christine de Pizan’s author-portraits perform the presence of the author, and Souleau considers performances of the authorial self in Jean Froissart’s Chroniques alongside Alexandre Dumas’s evocations of Froissart in his novels. Moritz Kelber addresses the performance of antiphons in the context of the ceremonial Adventus. Matthew P. Thomson investigates the performance of quotations, and how quotations are performed, in the medieval motet. Hope traces the various modern editions of the Minnelied ‘Loybere Risen’, and the range of performances that these texts expect and enact. Finally, Ardis Butterfield’s Afterword transports the reader to the cacophonous pages of the Roman de Fauvel, where narrative, music, and image perform together. This thought-filled and thought-provoking volume offers a polyphony of perspectives on, and examples of, medieval performance. It features twelve large colour reproductions of manuscript images, as well as eighteen musical transcriptions.

Michael Tilby
Selwyn College, Cambridge


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pp. 622-623
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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