The Medieval Review 15.04.08

Di Bacco, Guiliano, and Yolanda Plumley. Citation, Intertextuality and Memory in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Volume 2. Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Medieval Culture. Exeter Studies in Medieval Europe. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013. Pp. x, 259. £75.00 (hardback). ISBN: 9780859898614 (hardback).

Reviewed by:

Paul V. Rockwell
Amherst College

The collection of essays reviewed here is a companion volume to one that appeared at the University of Exeter Press in 2011--which was edited by Di Bacco, Plumley, and Stefano Jossa--and carried the title Citation, Intertextuality and Memory in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Text, Music and Image from Machaut to Ariosto. The current volume is quite heterogeneous, as was the first, in its conceptualization of the workings and significance of intertextual echoes as well as in the various types of compositions discussed. Simply to facilitate consultation by readers from various disciplines, the following short summaries re-group the volume's essays, which in the collection do not appear in the order found here.

Four of the essays concern citation in music. Anna Berger wrestles with the pathways followed by quotations germane to the tradition of medieval polyphony. She pays particular attention to works by the literate composer Perotinus and the "musically illiterate" Oswald von Wolkenstein (50). She concludes that Perotinus did "not necessarily quote from written music," but also drew on memorial archives for his compositional borrowings, whereas Oswald probably was "inspired by listening to written compositions" (50). Helen Deeming examines contrafacta in thirteenth-century sequence repertories, in which new text is written for an existing melody. She pays closest attention to English contrafacta of Laudes crucis attollamus and of Letabundus exultet fidelis chorus. Deeming finds a "high degree of mobility between the contrafacta and their originals," but struggles somewhat in her attempt to explain the significance of specific revisions (79). Nevertheless, her notion of the "creative dialog" between multiple texts, which is invited by the melodic borrowings of contrafacta, is a useful model of reading that would be applicable in any setting where intertextual borrowing is perceived. It is fair to say that the perception of the intertextual echo is only the beginning of an interpretive analysis that can in some cases become extraordinarily complex. Tamsyn Rose-Steel provides a fine example of such "creative dialog" in her analysis of the version of the motet Detractor est/ Qui secuntur/ Verbum iniquum that is preserved in the celebrated Roman de Fauvel manuscript Paris, Bib. nat. de France, MS fr. 146. She finds it to be "a commentary on and complement to the narrative within which it sits" (163). Its hybrid construction is taken to reflect the "fluctuating hybrid nature of Fauvel" in both the narrative and the manuscript's illuminations. Jennifer Saltzstein examines the thematic consequences of musical citation in works by Adam de la Halle. She revisits the issue of authorial self-representation through the interplay of "two of three refrains that Adam quotes multiple times within his own works" (186): Par ci va la mignotise and A dieu commant amouretes. She proposes some ingenious parallels between musical cadence in one of Adam's motets and the work's thematic content.

In order to suggest that the memories inscribed in sculptural and pictorial representations might operate in ways that are analogous to those designated by the term "intertextuality," Marguerite Keane coins the term "intervisuality" in her essay on the chapel of Blanche of Navarre at the abbey church of Saint-Denis. The notion proves quite useful in her analysis of the positioning of the statuary that surrounded the gisants at the time of the chapel's construction. She concludes that "if there is a dominant theme in the chapel's intervisuality, it is Blanche's descent from Saint Louis" (133). Sonja Drimmer's contribution extends the scope of this notion to manuscript miniatures. In one of the most convincing and original essays in the volume, Drimmer describes the evolution of authors' portraits in manuscript illuminations. The changes that she details are shown to parallel a shift away from the notion of the author as "conduit for the Word" towards an image of the author as a mediator for the knowledge embodied in extant books (93).

The remainder of the essays concern echoes discerned among literary texts. Two of them focus on medieval chronicles. Jenny Benham examines literary antecedents for descriptions of scenes of peacemaking that are found in the chronicles of Walter Map and Ralph Glaber. The essay essentially raises the question of the role of literary convention in historical reportage. Sjoerd Levelt's brilliant analysis of Geoffrey of Monmouth situates his Historia regum Britannie relative to the works of Bede, Gildas, William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntington, William of Newburgh, and Gerald of Wales. Much attention is paid to the struggle for narrative authority in these authors' efforts to make their version of British history prevail over those of their predecessors. Most interesting were the examples of Geoffrey's omissions from and additions to cited source material in an attempt to subvert the Bedan model of historiography. A later generation would use similar techniques to try to undermine Geoffrey's image of the past. Henry of Huntington, for example, is found to have intentionally misinterpreted Geoffrey's Latin in an effort to mockingly refigure British history. The picture of rewriting that emerges from these examples suggests that medieval chroniclers were engaged in rhetorical strategies analogous to those identified in the tradition of rewriting romance by Douglas Kelly, Norris Lacy, Daniel Poirion and others. [1] It is, in fact, somewhat surprising that nowhere in this collection of essays are the contributions of these scholars recognized. All of the literary analyses collected in this volume might have benefited from Lacy's notion of "motif transfer." Naomi Howell, for example, traces the evolution of the motif of empty tombs in Floire et Blancheflor, Cligès, the Lancelot en prose, and Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan, and invariably assigns Christological associations to each of them. These passages might well be read to contain biblical allusions. But they are not only that. They also could be interpreted as alluding to each other. If these are all Christological allusions, how and why are they different from each other? As Poirion recognized long ago, the process of rewriting inscribes la trace d'une culture dans l'écriture (117). Greater attention to the displacements inherent in allusive composition would have been welcome here. Similarly, R. Barton Palmer details echoes of the Ovide moralisé that can be found in Machaut's Voir dit, some of which appear to have been copied by the poet almost word for word. Nevertheless the imported material acquires new meaning in Machaut's text simply by being juxtaposed to the diagetic elements of his narrative. Palmer acknowledges that the borrowings from the story of Polyphemus and Galatea function in Machaut's work as a kind of "mise-en-abyme that reflects key elements" of the plot (161). Toute-Belle is something like a Galatea, but not exactly. It is in the lack of perfect fit between the elements of an allusion that a "creative dialog" might be engaged to the most interesting effect. In her contribution on memory in the Divine Comedy, Lina Bolzoni rightly highlights the role that Aquinas's notion of imagines agentes plays in Dante's allegory. Central to her argument is the understanding of images as a form of memory and the implications of that notion for the representation of divine justice in the poem. It would have been interesting to hear how this formulation of memory might function in Dante's encyclopedic set of allusions to other medieval texts. Since the implications of memory evolve as one passes from one region of Dante's cosmos to another--one is reminded of the role of Lethe in Purgatory--it would be interesting to investigate whether or not the evolving status of forgetfulness in the poem anticipates changes in the way in which Dante alludes to other medieval texts at the different levels of the cosmos. The workings of Dante's allusions could conceivably evolve as the reader follows the pilgrim from the underworld to paradise. Drawing on Judith Butler's notion of gender as performance, Emma Cayley examines male narrators who assume female voices in the fifteenth-century debate poems Le songe de la pucelle, the Debat de la Noire et de la Tannee, and the Debat de la Damoiselle et de la Bourgeoise. She draws analogies between this mode of gender "citation" and the notion of "transvestitism," which, in her analysis, has the effect of eroding "any stable identity or subject position in the text" (66).

The editors are to be commended for identifying a crucial component of medieval artistic creation and for assembling an outstanding collection of multi-disciplinary scholarship. The variety of materials treated and of approaches to interpreting citational echoes attests to the complexity of the problem at hand. Put quite simply, it could be asked "how might the critic historicize intertextual repetition?" The collection reviewed here takes an important step toward a response. Nevertheless, this reader comes away from it agreeing with the remarks offered by Ardis Butterfield in the introduction to the volume: "Much work remains...not only in tracing the paths of the citations, but also in thinking through the larger issues of how we are to understand the cultural practices by which material was exchanged, recalled and repeated. The challenge is as much conceptual and critical as empirical" (2). I, for one, will very much look forward to the future scholarship of the volume's contributors.



1. Douglas Kelly, The Art of Medieval French Romance (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992); idem, The Arts of Poetry and Prose (Typologie des sources du moyen âge occidental, 59; Turnhout: Brepols, 1991); idem, The Conspiracy of Allusion: Description, Rewriting, and Authorship from Macrobius to Medieval Romance (Leiden: Brill, 1999); Norris Lacy, "Motif Transfer" in The Medieval Opus: Imitation, Rewriting and Transmission in the French Tradition, ed. Douglas Kelly (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1996), 157-168; Daniel Poirion, "Ecriture et ré-écriture au moyen âge," Littérature 41 (1981): 109-118.

Copyright (c) 2015 Paul V. Rockwell

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