>Research/theory question for the medievalists and early modernists

>ETA: Maybe this *isn’t* just for the early modernists! All suggestions welcome!

I’m trying to work out something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, and that I presented a paper about at last year’s Kalamazoo (so if you know me, and you’re so inclined, you could go look up the specifics, since the rest of this post is likely to be vague). I’m starting to be convinced that a particular text, conventionally regarded as having a medieval origin, is actually an imitation of things medieval. I don’t think it’s a fake — I’m not talking about something like Chatterton’s forgeries here — but I am starting to think it’s an early-modern anti-Catholic representation and parody of medieval modes of thought, rhetoric, and genre. (When I presented on this at Kalamazoo, I argued for the parodic elements, but I assumed it was coming from within late medieval debates and anxieties. Now I’m not so sure.)

So, my question for you all is this: if you were writing on imitation or parody –whether or not in the context of early modern polemic against the Roman church? — what theories and texts would you look to to help you think through this (medieval, early modern, or contemporary)?

Yeah, I know, completely vague. But maybe you can still help.

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13 thoughts on “>Research/theory question for the medievalists and early modernists

  1. >Can I ask a clarification question? Do you think it’s a forgery or a parody? Did the author intend for others to think it authentic or was that (perhaps) just something unintentional that happened?

  2. >Would it be helpful to look at Ascham’s stuff on teaching stylistic imitation and such? Early modern educational practices are full of ways of teaching students to imitate rhetorical and other strategies, through stuff like double translation and such. Maybe Joel Altman’s book would be a starting place for a historical approach?

  3. >Matthew — I definitely mean something along the continuum of conscious imitation to parody, but *not* forgery.Bardiac – that sounds really helpful. I don’t know Ascham — can you give me more information? Is this something I’d have to get on EEBO or are there modern editions?

  4. >There are modern editions; the book’s title is the Scholemaster (usually spelled that way). Among other things, he was E1’s tutor for a while, and a proponent of double translation. Altman’s book is *The Tudor Play of Mind* which argues that the practice of writing essays for and against issues taught folks to focus on the rhetoric rather than on “what they feel.” But he also brings in Ascham and stuff.

  5. >This is certainly vague and probably obvious, but looking at the reception of Chaucer (and the interpolation of tales) or at Spenser might provide some more conrete leads.

  6. >Is this a dating issue? That is, the work in question is currently held to be a medieval work, but you are thinking that it may in fact be later?

  7. >For the modern theory route, Baudrillard and/or Deleuze on the idea of the simulacrum might be helpful, if a bit French. Sorry if this is completely obvious to all.

  8. >Rachel — Thanks! And duh (to myself, not you)!Erick — It’s not really a dating problem. It’s one of those texts in a later manuscript, but everyone’s always argued for an earlier origin (without MS witness). (I still have to review the linguistic arguments.)

  9. >I guess I ask about dating because it makes a difference in what early modern models for parody and imitation this . . . nameless . . . text would have available. I mean I’m supposing it would matter if it’s pre- or post-Spenser, right? Perhaps even more to the point for what you’re up to, though with obvious limitations in applicability: in very late 1566, Archbishop Parker had an Old English sermon printed in typefaces that were based on the forms he found in the Old English manuscripts. That is, Parker and his crowd were very interested in recovering not only the language (it was the first book to contain Old English, and included other Old English texts, such as the Lord’s Prayer), but in recovering something of the ancientness of it: imitating the manuscript letter forms was part of the propaganda. (And Foxe reprints the text in a different set of Anglo-Saxon types in revisions of his Book of Martyrs, so the imitation was clearly seen as essential.) I’m no expert on the matter (though I think it’s clear I find it fascinating), but I suspect that ideas about how one imitated “the medieval” shifted roughly during or just after the reign of Mary.

  10. >Erick, thanks for reminding me of Parker’s recovery and imitation projects with OE texts! That’s all very helpful for “thinking with.” Although an imitation OE text isn’t what I’m dealing with, Parker, Foxe, et al., and the issues and dates you mention, are all very, very helpful.And Anonymous, from above, I forgot to thank you, too. Work on reception and/or medievalism is something I’d thought about and need to think more about.

  11. >You probably know about this book, but there might be some leads there:Reading the Medieval in Early Modern Englandhttp://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521868432

  12. >I take it this is a text imitating orthodox religious doctrine in a post-reformation context? As Anonymous said, it might be worth looking at how people like Foxe use the apocryphal tales (which might offer an object lesson in imitation) to make a case for Chaucer as a Lollard sympathizer. You might also look at the print history of medieval texts–e.g., Crowley’s three 1550 editions of Piers Plowman; perhaps these attempts to define what constitutes a “reformist” medieval literature might help shed light on what would define an “orthodox” medievalism to imitators.

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