Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Controlling Readers: Guillaume De Machaut and His Late Medieval Audience

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Controlling Readers: Guillaume De Machaut and His Late Medieval Audience

Article excerpt

Deborah McGrady, Controlling Readers: Guillaume de Machaut and his Late Medieval Audience (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2006). xii + 310 pp.; 27 plates. ISBN 0-8020-9020-6. £48.00/$75.00.

Deborah McGrady's monograph is a fascinating and important contribution to Machaut scholarship. Using Machaut's longest and formally most complex poem, Le Livre du voir dit, as a case study, she develops a fruitful conceptual model for discussing readership in late medieval literature. Her book also provides a longawaited comparative study of the Machaut manuscripts. The predominant focus of previous Machaut criticism has been the poet's self-presentation as author, and the authorial intervention discernible in manuscripts of his collected works. McGrady shifts the focus onto readership. Part I examines the representation of readers in late medieval textual and visual culture, mapping the emergence of the lay reader and distinguishing the diverse types of readerly activity presented in the Voir dit. Part ð identifies strategies adopted by 'intermediary readers' - those involved in the bookmaking process - in three of four extant codices containing the Voirait (MSS A, F-G, and E), demonstrating the influence of material form on shaping readers' reception of the poem. McGrady highlights the prominence accorded within the Voir dit to mode of reception as an instrument to control interpretation. Part in studies the creative responses to the Voir dit by three 'inventive readers' whose interventions aim at creating new writings. Provocative comparative readings of poems by Deschamps and Froissart propose that these writers' responses sustained debate concerning the role of delivery and audience in shaping a text, as did the remaniement of the Voir dit performed in its fourth extant manuscript copy (MS Pm).

A particular strength of this study is its meticulous structure and clarity of expression. Each chapter, or larger part, begins with a dense but lucid synopsis of its argument and introduces the textual or manuscript materials to be discussed. The main body of each chapter then allows the reader to follow through systematically, under helpful subheadings, the argument's development, expanding outwards to broader critical points (such as, in part H, the function of pictorial programmes and tables of contents), or focusing in on close textual or visual analysis. …

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