Friday, 26 August 2005

Poets and Patrons

Apologies for the silence. I've been preparing a review of John A. Scott's wonderful new book Understanding Dante, and have it nearly ready. It's for The Sixteenth Century Journal.

I then read Cynthia Brown's book Poets, Patrons, and Printers: Crisis of Authority in Late Medieval France(Cornell U Press, 1995). She talks about the way that printers become very important and influential at the opening of the sixteenth century and, by examining things like frontispieces and colophons, she charts the rise of the author and his sense of identity, especially via an increasing sense of literary rights (or copyright). Fascinating, and persuasively written. I also had a read of Robert Edwards's Ratio and Invention: A Study of Medieval Lyric and Narrative(Vanderbilt U Press, 1989). If anyone has read it and has a comment on it please post; I couldn't make head nor tail of it, and I suspect that may be because the book has neither head nor tail.
If I have not been able to make sense of an argument in a book, whose fault is it? Mine, for being thick (a strong possibility), or the author's, for not being able to get his point across? I remember a long time ago handing a piece of work in to my history of art lecturer and going through it with him; at one point he said that something wasn't clear and I, in a moment of humility, apologised. He said, Yes, you should apologise, because it is your fault and your problem if the point is not getting across. You are responsible. Agens rather than auctor maybe.

I've seen the V.A. Kolve Festschrift s/h and was thinking of buying it. But I'm a bit wary of buying collections of essays: after all, you'll only ever need to refer to one or two ever. What's the point? I usually prefer to plough money into texts. I just ordered Shackleton Bailey's new edition of the Thebaid, for the LOEB. Has anybody used it yet? I'm presuming it is a new edition, and translation. I'm missing good bookshops here in Dublin.

5 comments:

kcsefalvay said...

Yeah, the Ratio and Invention. I came across that book last summer while I was doing research work at the Herzog August Bibliothek, an assistant professor (I won't mention her name, she is pretty well known and it's not too difficult to fathom out her identity) who was very fascinated by the book told me to check it out. I did, and I still regret having sat over it for about two days, brooding about the obscure sense hidden in the text. I did not found out a thing, and I ascribed it to my youthful and inexperienced mind (having been barely 18 at that time), but I'm glad I'm not the only one to whom this book was useless :) Luckily, it was only of lateral interest to my work (I was researching on certain motives in Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry of the Limbourgs).

A month later I finally decided to apply for law instead of History of Art.

Miglior acque said...

Hmm, I'm sorry to hear you went for Law instead of H of A. I read H of A for my u/g degree. I'm not sure how useful it Edwards's books might be looking at the Tres Riches Heures though? I've given Ratio & Invention a chance. Now I'm reading Paul Strohm's Social Chaucer. Better written, more interesting, not without its problems, but stimulating.
One can always go back to History of Art though!

kcsefalvay said...

Yeah, I also regret it. But unfortunately, I'm a poor parents' kid from a poor country, and cannot afford doing beautiful but unprofitable things :)

The Edwards book did not help me, either :) I did not get why I was given the book in the first place. Anyway, I wasted two days with the book, and did not get out much of it.

Darragh said...

The secret to good writing style is having something to say and saying it clearly - Matthew Arnold

If you can't say it clearly, then you don't understand it yourself - John Searle

Miglior acque said...

Thank you boys. The book, in reality, is about something that I believe is very important and also very difficult and it is certainly better that the book is out there than that it is not. He talks about medieval literary theory and music, and there are a whole host of implications and ramifications for what he discusses in the book, some of which, frankly, I'm too unlearned to appreciate. The reviews were generous enough and by rather clever people (Mary Carruthers [Speculum, 1992], and RA Shoaf [MP, 1992]), so I fear that the problem lies more with me than this book. I shall give it another go, but not soon. Sometimes one is not ready.

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