Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 June 2021
A SOPHISTICATED MARKET for the production and circulation of written texts, a concern with the establishment of national vernaculars as well as a forum for the exchange of religious, philosophical and literary ideas characterised medieval Europe. Explorations of this textual culture can fruitfully elucidate the prolonged and varied processes through which Europe and its constituent localities entered into modern reading, writing and communicative practices. Europe here is intended as an ideological concept which, despite present concerns and worries, does persist; indeed, the worries attest to the persistence of Europe's existence. To debate and consider the coherence of medieval Europe is important. It matters because it shows the tension between the unity and the diversity which still define Europe. The summer of 2015 will see the publication of a major literary history under the general editorship of David Wallace; this project is
[An] opportunity to consider how Europeans and their near neighbours defined and regenerated themselves following the greatest single catastrophe in their history […] This is the first literary history of medieval Europe to be attempted in English. Eschewing conventional, anachronistic organization by “national blocks” – English literature, French literature, etc. – it considers literary activity in transnational sequences of interconnected places. Its vision of Europe, and of movement within Europe is, we believe, of acute contemporary relevance.
As Europe: A Literary History, 1348–1418 takes its reader on journeys through the literary encounters of Europe, Writing Europe 500–1450: Texts and Contexts brings together papers on a range of topics in medieval manuscript studies and textual criticism, seeking to explore these issues from a pan-European perspective.
The focus on writing, which implicitly considers readers, is roughly chronologically defined between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the introduction of printing in Europe. These two events had profound influences in defining pre-modern Europe and its global cultural, social and political influences – of which writing is a constituent paradigm. Thus this volume draws on a range of approaches and perspectives to manuscript studies, material culture, multilingualism in texts and books, book history, readers, audience and scribes across the medieval period in Europe.