English | Studies in British or Commonwealth Culture
L383 | 28045 | Robert Fulk

Robert Fulk

28045 - 1:00p-2:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H

TOPIC:  "Medieval English Manuscripts"

This course will be devoted to the intensive study of English books
made before the arrival of the printing press in Britain. In part
this will involve the study (often hands-on, but also in print and
digital facsimile) of books as physical objects: what they were made
of, how they were made, who made them, and for what purposes. Unlike
printed books, no two medieval manuscripts are alike, and their
individuality has consequences for our understanding of the texts
that they contain. One persistent concern of the course will thus be
the way in which the meaning of medieval texts relates to the form
in which those texts are preserved. Another recurrent issue will be
the way that texts in medieval books relate to other components of
the manuscript, such as illustrations, marginalia, and glosses. We
will learn how to decipher varieties of early handwriting, and how
handwriting developed over the centuries in such a way that it can
be used to help date particular manuscripts. There will be
discussion of how to navigate some of the difficulties of archival
research, and of the evolving situation as more and more texts and
facsimiles become available in electronic form. Some particular
attention will be paid to studying the conventions that modern
editors use to turn medieval works into editions that modern readers
can use, and the logic that guides their choices. Students will be
expected to contribute effectively to class sessions through
discussion of assigned work and through the presentation of reports
on readings. Course requirements will include some shorter written
analyses and one longer paper drawing on the range of issues in
manuscript studies approached over the course of the semester. There
will be no examinations. Although medieval English manuscripts are
naturally written in Latin or in Old or Middle English, no knowledge
of these languages is required: the focus will be on the relation
between text and manuscript rather than on the text in isolation.