Reading in the Wilderness
Private Devotion and Public Performance in Late Medieval England
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Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of Pages: 344
Width: 16 cm
Height: 23.3 cm
Just as twenty-first-century technologies such as blogs and wikis have transformed the once-private act of reading into a public enterprise, devotional reading experiences in the Middle Ages were dependent upon an oscillation between the solitary and the communal. In "Reading in the Wilderness", Jessica Brantley uses tools from both literary criticism and art history to illuminate Additional MS 37049, an illustrated Carthusian miscellany housed in the British Library. This revealing artifact, Brantley argues, closes the gap between group spectatorship and private study in late medieval England. Drawing on the work of W. J. T. Mitchell, Michael Camille, and others working at the image-text crossroads, "Reading in the Wilderness" addresses the manuscript's texts and illustrations to examine connections between reading and performance within the solitary monk's cell and outside. Brantley re-imagines the medieval codex as a site where the meanings of images and words are performed, both publicly and privately, in the act of reading.
"Jessica Brantley's Reading in the Wilderness is an impressive, thorough, and thoughtful analysis of one of the most important of all fifteenth-century English manuscripts. In addition to providing a much-needed discussion of a densely illustrated compendium, the book provides a good general discussion of Carthusian patronage of the arts and attitudes towards the visual arts, which has long represented a lacuna in the literature." - Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Harvard University"