The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Dwyer, Richard A. "The Appreciation of Handmade Literature." 8 (1974): 221-40.
In creating physical texts, medieval scribes believed themselves capable of filling in textual gaps. Scholars must, therefore, be aware of the scribes' participation as manuscripts were remade. Medieval writers were not concerned with the "final" version of a text, since revisions were made later by scribes. In Piers Plowman, the different versions show scribes who, enthusiastic about older forms, attempted to align Langland's text with those forms and so "fix" the manuscript. Scribal "fine-tuning" to make significant changes in the manuscript is also a problem for those studying the Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde. The changes made to "Luf es Lyf" by Rolle show how selecting verses from different poems and putting them together can allow the scribe to create his own work. The resulting inconsistencies seem even more the product of a person who is madly in love. Examination of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy demonstrates how scribes popularized it by lifting sections from model versions and attaching them to newer transcriptions. For example, Jean de Meun's proheme appears in several manuscripts as does William of Conches commentary. Mixed prose versions eventually led to verse translations. Renaud de Louhans questionings of Boethius's rigorous stand eventually led Renaud to replace Fortune with Death, thus making the tale more accessible to those not of aristocratic background.