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Special Issues

The Medieval Library
Edited by Luke Sunderland and Thomas Hinton
Volume 70, Number 2

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The medieval library is a single formula that masks a bewildering variety of forms. From the institutional libraries of monasteries and, later, royal holdings, to the badly documented and often transient collections of private readers, medieval collections reflect the mobility of books and the varied uses to which they might be put. The disciplines of History of the Book and Library History have much to contribute to our understanding of this topic, but their reliance on empirical data runs up against natural limits where such information is sketchy or unavailable.

This special issue offers a literary perspective, drawing on medieval and modern theories of reading and textuality, to pursue two central questions: how the study of book collections might inform alternative readings of the texts contained within them, and what work the figure of the library performed in the medieval cultural imaginary. The authors deliberately eschew a teleological approach which would prioritise study of medieval libraries as precursors to modern institutions, and instead aim to be sensitive to the range of meanings ascribed to book collections by their medieval users, and the flexible values ascribed to them by reading communities. Medievalists working on vernacular languages have in recent years made compelling cases for changing the paradigms through which we think about the relation between poetry and society, or about multilingualism and cultural contact. The articles offered here build on such work in exploring how the library functions in vernacular textual contexts. Vernacular literacy is underexplored in the study of medieval libraries, yet vernacular texts constantly project themselves in terms of, or against, the mainstream book culture of institutional literacy. Such texts and their readerships here provide an exciting opportunity to glimpse the range of social and cultural roles performed by books and book collections in medieval society.

La bibliothèque au Moyen Âge : numéro spécial de la revue French Studies
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‘La bibliothèque au Moyen Âge’: une appellation qui répond à une multitude déconcertante de formes. Des bibliothèques institutionnelles des monastères et des monarchies, aux collections mal documentées et souvent éphémères de lecteurs particuliers, la mobilité du livre au Moyen Âge en fait un objet protéiforme.

La démarche empirique de l’Histoire du Livre a beaucoup apporté à l’étude du phénomène par son insistance sur les faits documentés, mais cette même méthodologie nous confronte à des limites naturelles là où les données concrètes sont fragmentaires ou inaccessibles. Ce numéro spécial de French Studies, se nourrissant d’idées médiévales et modernes sur la lecture et la textualité, offre une perspective littéraire sur deux problématiques fondamentales: comment l’étude des bibliothèques peut enrichir notre lecture des livres qu’elles rassemblaient (et nous inciter à les lire autrement) ; et le rôle que jouait l’idée de la bibliothèque dans l’imaginaire culturel du Moyen Âge. Les contributeurs rejettent une approche téléologique qui verrait les bibliothèques médiévales principalement comme les précurseurs de leurs équivalents modernes. Ils préfèrent insister sur les divers sens qu’elles revêtaient pour leurs utilisateurs, et sur la large gamme de fonctions qu’elles remplissaient.

Plusieurs études récentes des langues vernaculaires au Moyen Âge ont prôné le besoin de modifier les paradigmes à travers lesquels nous abordons la relation entre poésie et société, le multilinguisme, et la circulation du savoir. Les articles de ce numéro spécial partent de ces constats pour explorer le fonctionnement de la bibliothèque dans le contexte de la textualité vernaculaire, un champ de travail où les limites empiriques sont particulièrement flagrantes. L’intérêt d’une approche littéraire est évident: les textes vernaculaires se réfèrent incessamment à la culture livresque institutionnelle, que ce soit pour la contester ou pour se l’octroyer. L’étude de ces textes et de leurs lecteurs que nous proposons dans ce numéro offre un aperçu sur la gamme de rôles sociaux et culturels remplis par les livres et les collections de livres dans la société médiévale.

Compilations, recueils, collections
Edited by Wendy Ayres-Bennett and Catherine Volpilhac-Auger
Volume 65, Number 3

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La collection, sous l’appellation de compilation, peut apparaître comme un mode de développement opposé à l’art de la composition, à la croissance organique, harmonieuse et programmée, de l’œuvre maîtrisée par son auteur; elle est alors perçue sur le mode de l’accroissement, de l’accumulation, de l’augmentation continue ; elle ne vaut que parce qu’elle est multiple et qu’elle constitue un ensemble, où les notions mêmes d’œuvre et d’auteur disparaissent: tout ce qui appartient à la collection retire de cette appartenance sens et valeur. La collection apparaît alors comme un principe de structuration et d’intelligence des textes. Elle peut même engendrer une perception du contenu fondamentalement différente.

C’est ce processus qui est examiné dans ce numéro spécial de French Studies, comme mode de production éditoriale aussi bien que textuelle: quand l’œuvre ne se conçoit que dans son rapport à la collection, ce rapport est-il seulement d’analogie ou relève-t-il d’affinités plus profondes? Quelle influence un développement (sériel ou non) peut-il exercer, quand un simple corpus se constitue en collection? En quoi la collection peut-elle apparaître finalement comme un principe d’écriture? On s’interroge dès lors sur la notion même de collection comme collecte (ordonnée et raisonnée) conférant à un ensemble sa légitimité dans l’ordre du discours.

Ce phénomène est étudié à travers des œuvres ‘littéraires’ ou non, qui permettent d’étudier tout le spectre de la notion de collection. Le centre d’intérêt est surtout la période ‘Early Modern’, mais y figure également une contribution sur la ‘Légende Dorée’ où l’on voit déjà en germe plusieurs éléments-clés de la thématique.

New Ekphrastic Poetics
Edited by Susan Harrow
Volume 64, Number 3

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This Special Issue contributes to current debates in the cross-disciplinary field of ekphrasis, as theory and as a form of writerly practice. Across the range of textual and other media examined here, the contributors unsettle, challenge and ‘complexify’ traditional assumptions about what ekphrasis does and what it might do. The dialogue between the contributors is active and sustained. Alive to the changing theoretical landscape, they put new descriptions of ekphrasis to work on modern and contemporary French and Francophone visual culture and textual studies. In this the authors respond to – and contribute to – the discipline-defining work of Mieke Bal, James Heffernan and W.J.T. Mitchell through their readings of the complex relations between textual and visual media. As they probe key issues at the visual–verbal interface, the Introduction and the five articles combine interdisciplinary focus and specificity with a strong appeal to a wide constituency of researchers. The intellectual concerns of New Ekphrastic Poetics resonate with current issues in French and Francophone studies, especially its developing dialogue with visual culture (including screen studies), its enduring fascination with hybrid modernism and postmodernism, its preoccupation with intercultural (including postcolonial) relations, its engagement with corporeality and performativity, and its pleasure in textuality and writerliness.

The Art Novel
Edited by Paul Smith
JANUARY 2007 Volume 61, Number 1
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This special issue of French Studies examines a body of narratives featuring French art and artists published at representative periods during the nineteenth century (in both French and English). There are strong thematic continuities between many of the examples discussed, particularly as regards their concern over the social and economic position of the artist, and the nature and gendering of creativity. The topoi of the genius and the raté also recur throughout. Several texts are vehicles for voicing aesthetic and political positions. And many draw closely on contemporary figures, events, and debates for their content. Yet this special issue does not aim to identify a discursive unity so much as to exhibit the variety and richness of the art novel’s evolution. It is also concerned to address some of the methodological issues involved in reading this kind of text, including the selectivity of the canon, intertextual connections, and the relationship between fiction and fact. It is hoped it will not only plot some new and unfamiliar material in an area still represented for most by a mere handful of ‘major’ texts, but also bring some of the questions involved by this expanded configuration of the field into sharper focus.

Memory and Innovation in the Post-Holocaust Generation in France
Edited by Victoria Best and Kathryn Robson
JANUARY 2005 Volume 59, Number 1
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This special issue explores different representations of cultural memory in France since the Holocaust, a period overshadowed by historical trauma (wars, decolonization, genocide), in which memory has become an increasingly dominant cultural obsession. Contested representations of cultural memory have given rise to important critical and philosophical debates, which pivot on the relation between memory and history, the individual and the collective. Covering a broad range of spheres including literature, cultural history and theory, psychoanalysis and film, the essays collected here draw on and contribute to these critical debates in analyses that seek to rethink the relation between memory and representation. Where recent critical work on cultural memory has tended to emphasize its failures and frustrations, these essays highlight a different model of memory as innovation and creative representation. Central to all the essays is the idea that memories are constructed and mediated via specific culturally constructed frames, within which individual memory is irrevocably and sometimes troublingly bound up with collective modes of remembering. Yet the representations of memory examined here show how memory can work productively in and through tensions such as the relation between the individual and the collective without trying to overcome them: these tensions remain as crucial elements in the quest to find new forms of representation of memory.

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