Controlling Readers

Controlling Readers: Guillaume de Machaut and His Late Medieval Audience

DEBORAH McGRADY
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 348
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2tts99
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  • Book Info
    Controlling Readers
    Book Description:

    McGrady's erudite and exhaustive study is key to understanding Machaut, his works, and his influence on the history of reading in the fourteenth-century and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6815-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction: Reading and the Laity
    (pp. 3-16)

    Reading has a history that marks time by the responses of writers, bookmakers, and audiences to conventional interpretative practices.² When evolving theories on the purpose and value of texts, changing modes of delivery, advances in book technology, and newly acquired skills and preferences of a given audience converge, the resulting reading experience announces a rupture with the past. Late medieval France offers especially fertile ground to study the influence of these variables on reading because of the progressive realignment of book culture in response to a growing literate laity. From the twelfth century onward, French society increasingly depended on a...

  5. PART I: Inscribed Readers:: The Invention of the Lay Reader in Text and Image
    • [PART I: Introduction]
      (pp. 17-20)

      In his seminal essay on reception theory, ‘Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory,’ Hans Robert Jauss argues that to appreciate a work’s distinctiveness, we must shift our perspective away from the author and the text to consider the relationship between text and reader. This shift is necessary, according to Jauss, because a work is not defined by its production but rather by its reception. As the opening epigraph eloquently states, Jauss does not view the public as a byproduct of literature but as an active participant in its creation. To take into account the contributions of an audience...

    • 1 Reading between the Lines: Responses to Lay Literacy in Late Medieval Manuscripts
      (pp. 21-44)

      Around 1412, the Boucicaut Master produced a deluxe edition of theLivre des merveillesfor the Duke of Burgundy, Jean sans Peur (BnF, MS f.fr. 2810). The compendium, consisting of 297 folios, includes five travel narratives that cover a span of roughly eighty-five years, beginning with the voyages of Marco Polo around 1271 and ending with the adventures of Sir John Mandeville in 1356.¹ Of the 265 images decorating the manuscript, only the frontispiece to Jean Hayton’sFleur des histoires d’Orientincludes a portrait of the patron.² This penultimate frontispiece depicts Jean sans Peur in a conventional book presentation event...

    • 2 Lay Readers in Guillaume de Machaut’s Voir dit
      (pp. 45-76)

      Having examined the traditions drawn on to shape the lay reading experience as a private, intimate act in the late Middle Ages, we now turn to the specific case of Guillaume de Machaut, who made of reading a subject of romance. In theVoir dit, Machaut challenges conventional wisdom regarding reading by neither reducing the event to a uniform experience nor blindly accepting the model of lay readers espoused by his contemporaries. He first imagines a new reader that fuses models drawn from monastic and scholastic cultures with the courtly couple to create a ‘loving reader,’ an individual who would...

  6. PART II: Intermediary Readers and Their Shaping of Machaut’s Voir dit
    • [PART II: Introduction]
      (pp. 77-87)

      Chartier’s claim that texts cannot be severed from their material embodiment demands that we consider the relationship between a text’s message and its actual presentation. In the case of theVoir dit, where the author is intent on fixing the shape of his text and its reception from within the narrative, the issue takes on even greater urgency and brings into view the crucial intermediary role fulfilled by the bookmakers who inevitably served as interpreters of the narrative. Because Guillaume the narrator insists on the promise of the written artefact as a storehouse resistant to a meddling audience, the extant...

    • 3 Instructing Readers: Metatext and the Table of Contents as Sites of Mediation in BnF, MS fr. 1584
      (pp. 88-105)

      TheVoir ditrepresents far more than the faithful account of the love affair it promises in the prologue. Where the poet fails in love, he eloquently succeeds in writing about love. Indeed Machaut’s work provides one of the most detailed medieval accounts of the bookmaking process. Whereas Guillaume the lover quickly learns of his inability to control his affair, he emerges confident in his mastery of the writing and shaping of his book. His letters record in unprecedented detail the processes of poetic creation, musical composition, and book fabrication. Alongside such particulars as the number of verses he rhymes...

    • 4 Illustrations and the Shape of Reading: Pictorial Programs in BnF, MS fr. 1584 and MSS fr. 22545–22546
      (pp. 106-126)

      In spite of his detailed account of the vagaries of book production, Guillaume the narrator never comments on the decoration of his work. In the final pages of theVoir dit, however, he reflects extensively on the power of imagery to shape an individual’s understanding of both texts and events. These reflections are triggered by his own experience with the portrait that Toute-Belle sends early in the relationship. The poet’s devotion to the image is complete. From the beginning, he relates having spent endless hours meditating on the ‘ymage,’ praying to it, and celebrating its beauty in word and song....

    • 5 Layout and the Staging of Performance in BnF, MS fr. 9221
      (pp. 127-146)

      Until now there has been little discussion about the role of music in theVoir dit. To a certain extent, the narrative and its textual tradition (both medieval and modern) condone this silence. On the level of the narrative, even though Toute-Belle emphasizes the lover’s musical accomplishments from the outset of their relationship, Guillaume seeks to spotlight his talents as a writer. This struggle begins early in the affair. Toute-Belle wastes little time before calling for the poet to send copies of his books so that she can learn more about the art of composing music: ‘… qu’il vous plaise...

  7. PART III: Inventive Readers and the Struggle for Control
    • [PART III: Introduction]
      (pp. 147-151)

      In the previous three chapters, we examined instances where workshops enhanced Machaut’sVoir ditthrough the addition of supporting materials, such as tables of contents, rubrics, musical scores, and decoration, as well as through the implementation of innovative layout and organization. In each case, they intervened to strengthen the work according to their understanding of the text and/or the interests and skills of the intended readers. Changes elucidated the master text and guided the target audience in a distinctive reception of the work. In some cases, by amplifying the work with rubrics or images, or restructuring the text through layout,...

    • 6 Eustache Deschamps as Machaut’s Reader: Staking out Authority in the Master(’s) Text
      (pp. 152-169)

      At first glance, Eustache Deschamps appears as a mediating figure in the reception history of Machaut’s corpus. Scholars emphasize the important role he served in securing Machaut’s authorial identity. Deschamps is identified as having taken the extraordinary step of conferring on Machaut the illustrious title ofpoete¹ – possibly the first recorded occurrence of the term used to describe a vernacular poet – and he composed several eulogies that commemorated the master poet as an inimitable writer. The generous borrowing and intertextual allusions that populate Deschamps’s writings further confirmed Machaut’s extraordinary status as a privileged forefather of vernacular poetry. Finally,...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 7 ‘Nouveleté gaires ne gist’: Jean Froissart’s Reinvention of the Author–Reader Relationship
      (pp. 170-189)

      In the previous chapter, we examined Deschamps’s use of Machaut’s corpus and especially theVoir ditto explore the reading act as an authorizing venture. We now turn to another of Machaut’s contemporaries, Jean Froissart, whose professional writing career began in the final decade of Machaut’s life.¹ As we have seen in the course of this study, Machaut’s reputation was already secure in the 1360s when he ostensibly undertook the composition of theVoir dit. So admired was Machaut that Deschamps staked his career on the master’s fame and in England, Geoffrey Chaucer formed his poetic identity through generous literary...

    • 8 Reading and Salvation: The Case of Pierpont Morgan, MS M 396
      (pp. 190-210)

      The Pierpont Morgan Library houses the latest extant version of Machaut’sVoir dit. It dates from around 1425–30. It is an unlikely subject for close study. That it appears to be a direct copy of MS A holds little interest for modern scholars, ostensibly because the copy has so distorted the presentation of Machaut’s corpus that it neither fully resembles the original nor so radically breaks with it so as to emerge as a new artistic creation. Furthermore, MS Pm bares the telltale traits of a heavily cannibalized text. More than twenty folios are missing from the collection, some...

  8. Conclusion: The Residual Text, the Fading of the Author, and the Role of Technology
    (pp. 211-220)

    In spite of efforts to establish his corpus as an integral, symbiotic whole, Machaut’s carefully orchestrated collection was utterly dismantled and scattered by the end of the Middle Ages. The few selections from his corpus to enjoy continued currency in the fifteenth century typically circulated anonymously in collections or were misattributed to contemporary writers. Moreover, those compositions, although explicitly voicing their intricate dependence on other Machaut works, were severed from their literary context and presented as standalone texts (e.g., theJugement de Behaingnewithout theJugement de Navarreand theLay de Plour).¹ As for theVoir dit, apart from...

  9. Appendix I: Pictorial Content for the Voir Dit in MSS A, F, and Pm
    (pp. 221-224)
  10. Appendix II: Pm Manuscript Alterations
    (pp. 225-241)
  11. Appendix III: Illustration Key
    (pp. 242-244)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 245-284)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-304)
  14. Index
    (pp. 305-310)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 311-311)