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Chaucerian Messengers: Theories of Authority and Authorship Embodied

Applicant Vuille Juliette
Number 155131
Funding scheme Early Postdoc.Mobility
Research institution Faculty of English Language and Literature University of Oxford
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline German and English languages and literature
Start/End 01.09.2014 - 31.03.2016
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Keywords (8)

Chaucer and Chaucerian Studies; Figure of the Messenger; Medieval theories of authority and authorship; Late medieval English literature; Translation in the Middle Ages; Literary Theory; Vernacular vs Latin; Literary tradition and transmission

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Chaucerian Messengers: Theory of Authority and Authorship EmbodiedLes notions d’auteur/auctor et d’autorité à la fin du Moyen-Âge ont récemment occupé de manière proéminente les chercheurs littéraires, en particulier ceux qui se sont penché sur les écrits de Geoffrey Chaucer, comme Alastair Minnis et Rita Copeland. Ce projet s’attache à révolutionner notre compréhension du traitement de ces thèmes par Chaucer en se focalisant sur la représentation dans ses œuvres des messagers, figures qui n’ont encore reçu que peu d’attention de la part des chercheurs. Le messager, en tant que médiateur entre une autorité et un public, est un modèle particulièrement apte pour Chaucer, un écrivain qui préféra toujours se présenter comme simple traducteur ou compilateur de ses sources plutôt qu’en tant qu’auteur.
Lay summary

Au Moyen-Âge, le messager invoque la parole et l'éloquence aussi bien que des notions d’interprétation (cf Gr. Ancien hermeneus), de traduction, de vol et de tromperie. L’argument phare de ce projet est que Chaucer - qui lui-même fut engagé en tant que messager entre la France et l’Angleterre en 1360 – assimila son rôle d’écrivain à celui du messager, interprétant, traduisant le message délivré par les auteurs de ses sources, mais aussi leur subtilisant leur message, et dupant sciemment son public en modifiant ses sources, en les attribuant à d’autres auteurs, ou en les traduisant et interprétant de manière erronée. Chaucer médite, dans sa représentation des messagers, sur le statut de l’autorité écrite/auctoritas en Latin et en vernaculaire, de même que sur son rôle au sein de la tradition littéraire.

En développant certains thèmes et motifs rattachés à la figure du messager, comme un intérêt pour le fonctionnement de la transmission du message, une différentiation importante entre nouvelles ou histoires anciennes et récentes et leur corrélation avec la mémoire, un souci particulier vis-à-vis de l’anonymat du messager, ou encore une emphase sur l’aspect trompeur et imitatif des messages comme des messagers, Chaucer développe au cours de sa carrière littéraire une position originale pour son époque quant à son rôle d’écrivain, et expérimente en toute impunité, au fil de ses écrits, avec des notions importantes liées à son statut de traducteur, poète, et messager de la tradition littéraire, notamment: la fiabilité du messager/poète, sa responsabilité par rapport au message/texte qu’il transmet, et les avantages relatifs de l’anonymat.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.06.2014

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Publications

Publication
‘“Maybe I’m Crazy?” Diagnosis and Contextualization of Medieval Female Mystics’
Juliette Vuille (2015), ‘“Maybe I’m Crazy?” Diagnosis and Contextualization of Medieval Female Mystics’, in Naoe Kukita Yoshikawa (ed.), Boydell and Brewer, Cambridge, 103-120.
Ian Johnson, The Middle English Life of Christ: Academic Discourse, Translation and Vernacular Theology (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013)
Juliette Vuille (2015), Ian Johnson, The Middle English Life of Christ: Academic Discourse, Translation and Vernacular Theology (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), in Bulletin Codicologique, 69(2), 408-409.
Martha W. Driver and Veronica O'Mara (eds.), Preaching the Word in Manuscript and Print in Late Medieval England. Essays in Honour of Susan Powell (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013)
Juliette Vuille (2015), Martha W. Driver and Veronica O'Mara (eds.), Preaching the Word in Manuscript and Print in Late Medieval England. Essays in Honour of Susan Powell (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), in Scriptorium/Bulletin Codicologique, 69(1), 224-225.
‘Boundless Knowledge: The Heterogeneous Expertise Displayed in MS CLXXVII’s Folio 152’
Juliette Vuille, ‘Boundless Knowledge: The Heterogeneous Expertise Displayed in MS CLXXVII’s Folio 152’, in Winfried Rudolf (ed.), Gallo Editoriale, Vercelli, not known.
Takami Matsuda, Richard A. Linenthal, John Scahill (eds), The Medieval Book and a Modern Collector. Essays in Honour of Toshiyuki Takamiya (Woodbridge; Otsuka:  D.S. Brewer; Yushodo Press LTD, 2015)
Juliette Vuille, Takami Matsuda, Richard A. Linenthal, John Scahill (eds), The Medieval Book and a Modern Collector. Essays in Honour of Toshiyuki Takamiya (Woodbridge; Otsuka:  D.S. Brewer; Yushodo Press LTD, 2015), in Bulletin Codicologique, 70(1), not known.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Oxford English Faculty Medieval Graduate Seminar Individual talk ‘Poetry and Authenticity: Messengers in Jean de Meun, Guilaume de Machaut, and Chaucer’ 03.03.2016 University of Oxford, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Vuille Juliette;
Biennial London Chaucer Conference Talk given at a conference ‘“Don’t Shoot the Messenger”: Chaucer’s Experimentation with Messenger Figures’ 12.07.2015 King's College, London, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Vuille Juliette;
Guest Lecture for MA Seminar ‘Writing, Disease, and Altered States’ led by Prof. Denis Renevey Individual talk ‘Interpretations of Female Mystics’ Altered States of Consciousness’ 26.03.2015 University of Lausanne, Switzerland Vuille Juliette;
‘Postdoctoral and Project Funding’ Talk given at a conference How to Construct an Attractive Academic Profile 06.12.2014 University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland Vuille Juliette;
Sixteenth Century Society Conference 2014 Talk given at a conference ‘Elizabeth Barton, Mary Magdalene, and the Authority of the Written Word’ 16.10.2014 New Orleans, United States of America Vuille Juliette;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Pathways of Transmission: Literary and Social Transfer in the Fourteenth Century. Public event. Title of my talk: "The Metapoetics of Transmission in Chaucer's Messengers" Talk 14.03.2016 University of Notre Dame in London, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Vuille Juliette;
‘Performing Dido: Late Medieval and Early Modern Ekphrasis’, Public Talk Talk 10.05.2015 Ashmolean Museum, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Vuille Juliette;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions Public Talk: Pathways of Transmission. "The Metapoetics of Transmission in Chaucer's Messengers" International 2016
Talks/events/exhibitions ‘Performing Dido: Late Medieval and Early Modern Ekphrasis’, Public Talk at the Ashmolean Museum International 2015
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Podcast talk: Presentation of Objects related to ekphrasis at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford Ashmolean Museum Podcast International 2015

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
164612 Chaucerian Messengers: Theories of Authority and Authorship Embodied 01.04.2016 Advanced Postdoc.Mobility

Abstract

Authorship and authority are key topics in scholarly approaches to medieval writings and to the works of Chaucer in particular. I propose to transform our understanding of Chaucer's treatment of these themes by way of an investigation of the messenger figure in Chaucer, which has until now been overlooked. The messenger, in his role as a mediator between an authority and an audience, is an apt muse for Geoffrey Chaucer, who was more comfortable in positioning himself as a translator and a compiler of his authoritative sources than as an author. Messenger figures, in the medieval period, were associated with eloquence and speech, but also interpretation, translation, thievery and deception. This project posits as its basis that Chaucer, who himself had acted as a messenger between England and France in 1360, saw his literary role as being parallel to the figure of the messenger: he was an interpreter and translator of his sources, but also a thief and a deceiver, stealing from his diverse auctores, knowingly miscommunicating, misattributing, and misinterpreting the literary tradition in order to reflect upon the status of written authority as such. Messengers appear at crucial moments of Chaucer's translative and transformative process, between his auctoritates and his English audience, and are used by the poet to develop his unique perspective on the literary tradition, his theorization of authority, authorship, and of his own status within this tradition.This project departs from other scholarly studies on Chaucer and his stance on authority and authorship, in that most such studies have until now focused on the poet's own representation as an auctor (did he see himself as an auctor, a writer, a compiler, or a translator? What label would he ascribe to his literary activity?) without taking into account his conception of literary tradition and transmission in its entirety. Through the figure of the messenger, my aim is to tease out Chaucer's theorization of literary transmission as a whole - in other words, how is a work/story/auctoritas transmitted - and his own role as mediator in this transmission process. I argue that through the use of recurrent motifs in his treatment of messengers, such as the emphasis on the mechanics of message transmission, the concern over new and old tidings, the anonymity of the messenger, or the misleading and imitative shape of messages and messengers, Chaucer reflects on his position as a writer, and experiments with crucial notions linked to his role as translator, poet, or perpetuator of the literary tradition: the reliability of the messenger or poet, his accountability over his message, the relative advantages of a poet or messenger's anonymity, and notions of misattribution.
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