Aesthetics of the Written Word
To best analyze how meaning was conveyed via writing during the Middle Ages, this exhibit features three manuscripts in particular: Le Roman de la Rose, written in approximately 1350 in France; and Les Lamentations de Matheolus, written around 1450 in France, The Chronicle in Metre, written in the 15th century in England. This wall aims to show that the representation of meaning through written word evolved in two ways as the Middle Ages progressed (13th-16th centuries). Increasingly, writers embraced the vernacular as opposed to writing in Latin and, while not a hard-fast rule, writers presented language in a single column more often than in a double column as the Middle Ages progressed.
As you explore the differences and similarities among the manuscripts in this exhibit, consider-- what do the manuscripts’ distinct languages communicate about their intended audiences? (High-brow, low-brow, in a specific occupation, etc.?) What do the manuscripts’ respective conditions communicate about use and past ownership? (Have they been re-bound or have pages - in particular, the fly-leaves - been replaced?) And then further, specific to this presentation, why might people in later medieval society have been disinclined towards a double-column style or reading language in verse? What factors caused this transition in the literary tradition?
To be sure, one drawback that challenges our argument is the wall’s small sample size. In particular, some manuscripts written during the Carolingian era were composed in a single column format. Nonetheless, much secondary literature confirms the dual literary transitions that occurred across nations throughout the Middle Ages. See Technique and Technology: Script, Print, and Poetics in France, 1470-1550 by Adrian Armstrong, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval French Literature edited by Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay, and Before Copyright: The French Book-Privilege System, 1498-1526 by Elizabeth Armstrong.