My research focuses on late medieval reading, writing and meditational practices that are enacted through a praxis involving a material text. I argue that all three of these activities are actually different performances of the same activity: inscription.
Inscription is the process by which legible bodies are given (textual) meaning; minds are inscribed with res through reading, souls are inscribed with the likeness of god through meditation, and the manuscript is inscribed with the textual record of this interaction in writing. All three of these processes produce a material work--an individual, contingent, embodiement produced through labor. The work itself, both the labor and the product of it, is inherently sacramental. It makes the invisible visible through sanctification and special grace (Hugh of Saint Victor, De Sacramentis).
While this argument might be able to be broadly applied to medieval book making altogether, especially during the period in which production was almost exclusively monastic, I am limiting my scope here to two Late Medieval English works that are both self-consciously devotional or contemplative in their inscription and that have rich and problematic manuscript testimonies.
Chapters one and two look at Piers Plowman in all its myraid forms and try to make sense of the whole labor of inscribing Piers in fifty-two different manuscripts, three different "texts" (A, B, and C), and eight different shapes of the poem, all produced over a 150-year period.
In order to say something about the Piers corpus, rather than one text or manuscript, I have done some graphical and statistical analysis of the entire collection of manuscripts. For an explanation of the different modes of graphing and analyzing, please check out my Prezi linked at the right. There is also a video of my keynote presentation for Kzoo 2013. If you would just like to peruse the images check out the links below.
Chapters three and four look at Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth century mystic whose 16 visions also survive in long and short versions. The short text exists in only one manuscript, a Carthusian compilation dating to 1413. The long text, on the other hand, is only extant in three seventeenth century manuscripts copied by English recusants in exile on the continent.
Much of my work to date has been on mapping and understanding the link between the Late Medieval mystic and scribes and the Early Modern Benedictines. At right you will find two works in progress that try to keep track of the movements of the English Benedictine Congregation.
An additional dimension undergirds my work as I try to engineer a theoretical framework for talking about both the materiality of the inscription process and its significance.
My argument wil rely on both medieval sources and contemporary theory. In medieval texts I will be drawing on discussions of sacramentality, the trope of Christ as a book, and medieval meditation and memory processes. From contemporary theory I draw upon several strains of new materialism and a number of scientific apparatuses that advance my inquiry into elements of the manuscript object itself: parchment, quill, ink (of course), (but also) agentic assemblage, conative bodies, and structural or chemical vitality.
As these projects develop and can be shared, more information will become available. Experiments done in collaboration with Dr. Jason P. McClure, chief scientist at Princeton Instruments
Crowd sourced bibliography on manuscript materailty compliments of The Material Collective: