Jessica Brantley (Yale University), “The Late Medieval Book of Hours and the Idea of the Literary”
Thursday, November 2 @ 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM
More books of hours remain in modern libraries than any other kind of book from late medieval England: almost eight hundred manuscript volumes, and many thousands of printed ones. From Europe at large the number of manuscripts alone has been estimated at around ten thousand. Their survival rate suggests (though of course it does not prove) that these books were very widely read, and even that a late medieval reader would have been more likely to encounter a book of hours than any other kind of bound volume. This truism–that the book of hours was a “bestselling” volume in the late Middle Ages–has utterly failed to affect the reading and interpretation of other kinds of late-medieval texts. But any history of medieval reading practices must include a consideration of what Eamon Duffy calls “the most intimate and important book of the late Middle Ages.” And any history of late-medieval English literature–this is my further argument–must come to terms with the material histories of reading that render literary culture legible.
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