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Title:Simple books for devout readers: Recovering a fifteenth-century middle English genre
Author(s):Weisweaver, Sara
Director of Research:Camargo, Martin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Camargo, Martin
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Wright, Charles D.; Barrett, Robert; Symes, Carol
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Middle English, devotional miscellany, devotional anthology, object-oriented ontology, OOO, manuscript studies, fifteenth-century England, common profit, vernacular anthology, vernacular miscellany, vernacular devotional literature, devotional literature, medieval devotional literature, new materialism, textualis, gothic textualis, medieval codicology
Abstract:This project recovers an overlooked fifteenth-century genre using a methodology informed by Object-Oriented Ontology. I collected fourteen manuscripts based on shared core features—portable size, small text box, textualis-leaning script, simple layout, primarily black ink with sparse yet helpful rubrication, and few or no illustrations. I argue that these books constitute a Middle English devotional genre, which I call the Simple Book. All of these books not only share a format, they also share similar types of devotional texts, and ultimately the format and texts work in tandem to create a humble, devotional reading experience. The Simple Book offered a rich, meaningful, and complete devotional reading program to readers with limited means. It defines itself by its use, both in its physical presentation to readers and in its narrative structuring, which I describe as both “welcoming” and “friendly.” By illustrating how a shift from named entities (title, author) to physical affordances makes anonymous texts and their readers legible, this materials-first approach to Middle English devotional manuscripts suggests alternate ways to address the problematically unwieldy genre of the “devotional miscellany.”
Issue Date:2019-06-10
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Sara Weisweaver
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-11-26
Date Deposited:2019-08

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