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Author Attributions in Medieval Text Collections: An Exploration

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Bart Besamusca, Gareth Griffith, Matthias Meyer, Hannah Jane Morcos

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-122
JournalAmsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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This article examines the role and function of author attributions in multi-text manuscripts containing Dutch, English, French or German short verse narratives. The findings represent one strand of the investigations undertaken by the cross-European project ‘The Dynamics of the Medieval Manuscript’, which analysed the dissemination of short verse narratives and the principles of organisation underlying the compilation of text collections. Whilst short verse narratives are more commonly disseminated anonymously, there are manuscripts in which authorship is repeatedly attributed to a text or corpus. Through six case studies, this article explores medieval concepts of authorship and how they relate to constructions of authority, whether regarding an empirical figure or a literary construction. In addition, it looks at how authorship plays a role in manuscript compilation, and at the effects of attributions (by author and/or compiler) on reception. The case studies include manuscripts from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, produced in a range of social and cultural contexts, and featuring some of the most important European authors of short verse narratives: Rutebeuf, Baudouin de Condé, Der Stricker, Konrad von Würzburg, Willem of Hildegaersberch, and Geoffrey Chaucer. The preliminary findings contribute to our understanding of author attributions in text collections from across northern Europe and point towards future lines of enquiry into the role of authorship in medieval textual dissemination.

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