IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 1212: The Creation of Literary Authority and Identity

Wednesday 12 July 2006, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Kathleen A. Bishop, General Studies Program, New York University
Paper 1212-aVisualizing Immortality: Establishing Authority in the Middle Ages
(Language: English)
Charity Jensen, Montana State University, Bozeman
Index terms: Historiography - Medieval, Language and Literature - Middle English, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1212-bMedieval Lives of St Margaret and Marguerite Poetry
(Language: English)
Alice Spencer, Università degli Studi di Torino
Index terms: Language and Literature - Comparative, Language and Literature - Middle English, Language and Literature - French or Occitan
Paper 1212-cWriterliness and Individuality: Literacy and Self-Creation in Petrarch, Machaut, and Chaucer
(Language: English)
Burt Kimmelman, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Index terms: Language and Literature - Comparative, Language and Literature - Middle English, Language and Literature - French or Occitan, Language and Literature - Italian, Language and Literature - Latin

Abstract paper -a: It is a critical commonplace that medieval authors establish their theories of historical and theological authority from classical and biblical traditions, as well as from the writings of the early Church Fathers. Medieval poets attempt to then usurp that authority to justify and legitimize their own creative works. If Bernard of Chartres places the present on the shoulders of past giants, Chrétien, Chaucer, and Henryson rewrite notions of independent poetic authority and become, instead, the giants themselves. Each uses the Troilus and Criseyde narrative to subvert the past by inventing new authorities, to rewrite the present by creating the first notions of poetic license, and to secure their place in the future by becoming those shoulders on which future generations must stand.

Abstract paper -b: The word ‘marguerite’ could mean both pearl and daisy. Marguerite was also one of the most common women’s names in the Middle Ages, partly because of its associations with the popular female saint, Margaret of Antioch. At the end of her life, Margaret asked God to bless anyone who told the story of her life or built churches in her honour, thus effectively presenting herself as a subject for works of art. This paper will examine ways in which a number of works in the ‘marguerite’ tradition, ostensibly ‘about’ the pearl and / or the daisy, may have been influenced by medieval lives of Saint Margaret, and how such lives in turn came to incorporate imagery from ‘marguerite’ literature.

Abstract paper -c: This paper will examine the work of Petrarch, Machaut, and Chaucer, focusing on their respective self-identifications as writers, and will argue that these acts are pre-Renaissance assertions of what becomes modern selfhood. In a book and articles, I have argued how authors used literature to assert themselves as individuals, and how readers came to understand themselves as individuals through their engagement with written texts. In this paper I would demonstrate how autonomous, literate individuals were a prerequisite for the promulgation of humanist thought, which would not have been possible without the spread of literacy, and how 14th-century intellectual and psychological developments coalesce in the authors’ self-characterization as writers.