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13.05.03, Mostert, A Bibliography of Works on Medieval Communication

13.05.03, Mostert, A Bibliography of Works on Medieval Communication

This extensive and nuanced bibliography of scholarship on communication in medieval Europe and beyond stands on the shoulders of Marco Mostert's two previous bibliographical compendia: Communicatie in de Middeleeuwen (1995), which presented 702 titles; and New Approaches to Medieval Communication (1999), which boasted 1580 titles. The volume under review dwarfs these earlier books, both in terms of its size (a staggering 6843 titles) and the breadth of the topics that it covers. Mostert construes "communication" in the broadest sense possible and this makes the volume very useful, even for medievalists who might not otherwise identify their research agendas with communication. His short introduction surveys the historiography of medieval communication studies, a field that has grown exponentially in the last four decades, in no small part due to a burgeoning interest in orality and literacy, particularly among English- and German-speaking historians. The analysis of written texts, especially how they were copied and organized, has played a dominant role in this historiography, but to his credit Mostert believes that the study of communication implicates specialists in medieval art, music and literature as well.

A Bibliography of Works on Medieval Communication comprises sixteen thematic chapters, each of which includes hundreds of publications. Chapters One and Two list works that will introduce readers to prevalent theories of literacy and written communication, scholarly debates about the meaning of these terms, the principle works of the Münster and Freiburg schools, and a survey of the development of premodern written culture, organized both temporally and regionally. Chapter Three treats various forms of non-verbal communication, with many entries on visual images and gestures, and short but tantalizing lists on more obscure subjects like smells, flavors, dance and laughter. Ritual is the topic of Chapter Four, with subheadings on forms of ritual behavior, political rituals and rituals of rule (from acclamations and assemblies to oaths, weddings and funerals), and a concluding section on rituals in literature. Chapter Five covers Latin and vernacular languages, with many subsections on forms of oral communication (from proverbs and riddles to shouting and battlefield language). Chapter Six introduces topics on oral and written memory, while Chapter Seven surveys scholarship on the teaching of reading and writing. Chapter Eight treats the production and use of books, with a particular emphasis on studies related to reading. There follow three short chapters on the preservation and purposeful destruction of written texts (Chapter Nine), couriers of written information, including works on ambassadors and postal systems (Chapter Ten), and "mandarin literacy," a term that would have benefited from some definition (Chapter Eleven). Chapter Twelve lists works on the use of writing by a wide range of different social groups, with several entries on women. Chapter Thirteen provides an introduction to scholarship on the uses of writing in government, management and trade. Chapter Fourteen treats literature broadly conceived, with entries on the Bible as literature, literature produced in various geographical regions, and a short section on drama, theatre, feast and spectacle. Chapter Fifteen covers religion and writing, with subheadings on topics like mission and liturgy as well as specific genres like sermons and hagiography. Chapter Sixteen on the symbolism of the book rounds out this wide-ranging and very useful resource.

Because there is so much overlap between the thematic sections of this book, Mostert has taken great pains to create a comprehensive 88-page subject index, complimented by a short index of modern authors and editors. I have only one small quibble with the book and it involves this second index. In a very few cases, an author is listed twice, once with their middle initial and once without, even when it is self- evident that both entries refer to the same person. For example, Brigitte Bedos-Rezak appears both as "Bedos-Rezak, B." and "Bedos- Rezak, B.M." (598). On the whole, however, this is a hugely ambitious and remarkably generous resource that is sure to be useful to medievalists of almost every discipline. Those whose research will benefit from this volume will be pleased to know that Mostert plans to update it online at Utrecht University's Medieval Literacy Platform: