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Iconography and the Professional Reader

Iconography and the Professional Reader

Kathryn Kerby-Fulton
Denise L. Despres
Volume: 15
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Iconography and the Professional Reader
    Book Description:

    Kathryn Kerby-Fulton and Denise L. Despres examine the only extant manuscript of William Langland’s fourteenth-century work Piers Plowman that is both illustrated and annotated, for what it can tell us about the politics of late-medieval manuscript preparation and the scholarly direction of manuscript use.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8825-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. [Illustrations]
    (pp. x-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Kathryn Kerby-Fulton

    There was a politics as well as an art to medieval book production, and that politics had this in common with what we would today call censorship: neither process cares much for the sanctity of the authorial text. As Annabel Patterson writes inCensorship and Interpretation, it is not authorial intention so much as audience reception that “determines the meaning and impact of a literary work,” an impact that “makes itself heard inferentially, in thespacebetween what is written … and what the audience, knowing what they know, might expect to read.”¹ This is a book about what occurs...

  6. Part I: Visual Politics

    • CHAPTER 1 Visual Literacy and the Iconography of Reformist Polemics
      (pp. 17-41)

      The task of the next two chapters will be to try to understand why the margins of the Douce manuscript contain so many unexpected pictorial challenges to ecclesiastical and political authority. It is the very nature of medieval book illustration (given that most commissions came from the wealthy and the powerful, whether for personal or institutional use) that visual images of authority are usually unequivocal, flattering, and ubiquitous. But the Douce artist explicitly challenges these norms through the manipulation of reader expectations, and in this he relies heavily on the visual literacy—or rather,literacies—of his audience. Like other...

    • CHAPTER 2 Visual Literacy and the Iconography of Social Dissent
      (pp. 42-67)

      There are very few certainties about the Douce manuscript, but one of them is that both the scribe and the annotator-corrector set out to translatePiers Plowmaninto Hiberno-English.¹ And, in fact, the colophon of the manuscript (fol.112v) actually tells us this:

      Explicit liber de Petro Ploughman

      Annoregni regishenrici sexti sexto

      Et fir’ Iouis

      antefestumMichaelis Incept’ trassup’

      That is, “Here ends the book of Piers Plowman, in the sixth year of the reign of Henry VI, having been begun to be translated on the Thursday before Michaelmas” (i.e., it was begun Thursday, September 29, and finished...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Professional Reader as Annotator
      (pp. 68-91)

      Just after Douce 104 was illustrated it was provided with a full set of marginal annotations (257 in total)—a vade mecum to the entire poem quite different from what we have seen in the illustrations, both in medium and in message. The fact that manyPiersannotators began enthusiastically but were soon daunted by the massiveness of the job (as the petering out of annotations in some extant manuscripts suggests) or that other annotators simply made sporadic notes makes Douce’s annotative witness that much more valuable.¹ But it is difficult to see what makes a cycle of annotations distinctive...

    • CHAPTER 4 Visual Politics
      (pp. 92-116)

      The pictorial cycle in Douce 104 is, as near as we can guess, the product of a Dublin-area scribe-illustrator with Anglo-Irish civil service experience. He had powerful lay sympathies and legal interests, and he may have been preparing Douce for a patron with similar concerns, or at least a patron whom hethoughtshould share his concerns (Capgrave’s witness suggests that professional readers were more likely to inflict their own interests on their patrons than to work vicariously). This was a world in which the artist was apparently at home, and it was a world of reformist concerns—some, from...

  7. Part II: Visual Heuristics

    • CHAPTER 5 Visualizing the Text: The Heuristics of the Page
      (pp. 119-146)

      Acursory look at Douce 104 is bound to disappoint literary scholars accustomed to viewing the luxury manuscripts of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century English poetry as supplemental evidence for historical contextualization. In comparison with the richly illuminated manuscripts in the Gothic international style, Douce 104 can only be considered a poor imitation, produced in a colonial backwater by a scribal illustrator and rubricator (perhaps the same) influenced by decidedly oldfashioned styles. The illustrator in the provincial workshop where Douce 104 was produced opened the Prologue with the manuscript’s single historiated initial; the rubricator recognized where a gold spray was appropriate and marked...

    • CHAPTER 6 Visual Heuristics
      (pp. 147-168)

      The visionaryordinatio, the marginal illustrative strategy the Douce illustrator employed to invite participatory reading, thereby creating the opportunity for memory and meditation, depends upon visual voicing or the oral and performative nature of texts in a manuscript culture. The mystical colloquy, a recorded conversation reproducing (and in the process, reordering) divine experience; the dispute between the body and the soul; the dream vision recreating spiritual experience from a retrospective vantage point—a conversation with a newly authorized self—all require the reader tolistento voices and identify with a narrator or speaker who relays his or her unique...

  8. CONCLUSION: Reading Piers Plowman in a Manuscript Culture
    (pp. 169-176)
    Denise L. Despres

    Caroline Barron has argued that “insofar as Langland’s poem is rooted in time and place, it is rooted in the streets of London in the 1370’s.”¹ But to make sense of Douce 104, whose illustrator and annotator clearly find Langland’s arguments immediate, provocative, and compelling, we have needed to dismiss temporarily London and reconstruct early-fifteenth-century Dublin culture from the material evidence the manuscript provides. We have attempted to provide a model of reception based upon the response to the poem by Douce’s Anglo-Irish professional readers working somewhere in the Dublin-Pale—the latter only “a strip of land about 20 miles...

  9. APPENDIX 1: The Hands of Douce’s Main Scribe and Corrector-Annotator
    (pp. 177-180)
  10. APPENDIX 2: The Marginal Annotations of Douce 104: A Complete Transcription
    (pp. 181-192)
  11. APPENDIX 3: Translations
    (pp. 193-204)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 205-252)
  13. Index
    (pp. 253-268)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-270)
  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 271-331)