Reconsidering Lincoln's Inn MS 150

Horobin, S. and Wiggins, A. (2008) Reconsidering Lincoln's Inn MS 150. Medium Aevum, 77(1), pp. 30-53.

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Abstract

This is an essay about the textual idiosyncrasies of London, Lincoln's Inn MS 150 (L). The scribal interference with the texts transmitted by L provides a fascinating insight into their intended use, as well as their appeal and interest for a particular early fifteenth-century readership. Contrary to previous editors and literary critics, who have inevitably dismissed the texts transmitted by L as 'bad' and 'corrupt', our goal is to demonstrate that they are of intense and compelling interest and value for literary, cultural, and manuscript studies. The manuscript presents an early, self-conscious, and focused response to the A text of Piers Plowman Piers Plowman: see Langland, William. and to the series of romances it contains. Furthermore, it is our particular contention that the nature of the revisions would have enhanced the impact of these texts for a listening audience. The theme and direction of the revisions--which highlight dialogues and turn-taking; introduce facial expressions, gestures, and movements; emphasize visual cues; elaborate comic episodes; and enhance the auditory effects of the language--suggest a consistent interest in the dramatic features of these texts. Added to this is the (previously unnoticed) sequence of marginal annotations by the scribescribe (skrīb), Jewish scholar and teacher (called in Hebrew, Soferim) of law as based upon the Old Testament and accumulated traditions. The work of the scribes laid the basis for the Oral Law, as distinct from the Written Law of the Torah that appear directly to mark up the written text of Merlyn for use in performance. This combination of features strongly suggests the possibility that the scribe was preparing these texts for reading aloud and was interested in their potential for animated oral presentation. As such, our findings offer a positive and constructive response to David Benson's recent suggestion regarding Piers Plowman that 'In light of the many dialogues in the poem, perhaps we should look more closely at the surviving manuscripts (and the text itself) for indications of oral performance'. (1) The implications of this hypothesis are discussed in the conclusions to this essay.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wiggins, Dr Alison
Authors: Horobin, S., and Wiggins, A.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Journal Name:Medium Aevum
ISSN:0025-8385
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