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‘Textual Revolutions’

Wednesday, 22 February, 2017

Cynthia Rogers, New Chaucer Society Postdoctoral Fellow, will present “Defending Women: Re-reading the Findern Manuscript as an Artifact of Late Medieval Social Reading Practices,” at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 in Room 142 of Adorjan Hall.

Chaucer Reading Troilus and Cressida, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 61, fol 1v. (c. 1415)

Reading texts from authors such as Chaucer and Gower in the Middle Ages was a social and interactive activity -- groups of people listening to the poetry being read out by one of their number, while they simultaneously prepared to respond to the conversational gambits that such texts provided. The late-medieval Findern Manuscript can be productively read as an artifact of this normally ephemeral set of interactions with texts.

The 40 different hands within this scrapbook copied texts by their favorite authors and then added their own lyric responses to those texts. A close examination of this playful literary game reveals that the unusual thematic coherence of the Findern -- centering on female agency, eloquence, and suffering -- is due to its gentry creators interaction with the Nature of Women Debate. An acknowledgement that these texts are being chosen and created to take standard “positions” within the debate allows both a richer understanding of this medieval manuscript, and also traces a lineage for many of the stereotypes about women that we continue to hear in our modern media.