Patient Reading/Reading Patience

BookPatient Reading/Reading Patience

Patient Reading/Reading Patience

Oxford Essays on Medieval English Literature

Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies


December 1st, 2017



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This volume brings together a variety of studies, some reprinted, some new; all are devoted to the literate culture of the English later Middle Ages. The studies hover about four foci: normative English polylingualism (across three grammatically distinct languages); the messiness and discontinuities of medieval manuscript production; drawing conclusions about historical audiences/literary communities on the basis of book-evidence; and finally, the Middle English poem Piers Plowman. In general, although all the essays here arrive at broad conclusions, their point is other. The essays exemplify methods of study, the identification of problems and the recognition of tools appropriate or helpful in addressing them. Perhaps particularly the volume gestures toward a range of skills appropriate for the task; these range from narrow observation of book-production techniques to bringing a local historical record to bear on an individual volume or group of them.

Patient Reading constitutes a major contribution to book history. It also offers a sustained reflection on the reading practices that might best illuminate medieval texts […] Patient Reading presents a rich compendium of material, the fruit of Hanna’s own “patient . . . absorption” in the medieval archive (8). It also makes some stimulating and consequential claims about the creative, polylingual, exegetical practices that gave shape to medieval sermons and to medieval poems.’

Alastair Bennett, Modern Philology

'Running alongside the erudition of this volume, there is a basic humility and unashamed bookishness that again points towards Hanna's implicit ideological position that historical literacy scholarship is worthwhile in and of itself.'
Ian Felce, Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen

‘These separate studies are thick with historical and cultural detail, descriptive analysis, and codicological argument, and signpost many untrodden avenues for further research while also offering precise and informative discoveries.’
Margaret Connolly, Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies

Author Information

Ralph Hanna is Professor of Palaeography (Emeritus) and Emeritus Fellow at Keble College, Oxford. He is a former Guggenheim Fellow, former Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute (Harvard University), and winner of the British Academy Sir Israel Gollancz Prize for English Language 2015. His books include Editing Medieval Texts (Liverpool University Press, 2015), Introducing English Medieval Book History: Manuscripts, their Producers and their Readers (Liverpool University Press, 2013) and Richard Rolle: Unprinted Latin Writings (Liverpool University Press, 2019).