Dynamic Compilations
: Reading Story Collections in Medieval Francophone Manuscripts

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the compilatory dynamics of manuscripts containing francophone story collections in verse. It investigates how the hermeneutic, textual and paratextual frameworks of story collections, as ‘models’ of compilation, were conceived and read in multi-text codices, analysing in particular how paratext shapes textual boundaries, and how ideological agendas are established. The corpus comprises the manuscripts of three different story collections in order to illustrate common compilatory processes (modification, interpolation, extension, continuation, etc.) as well as the extent to which the specific character of the framework (and
‘generic’ identity) of the story collection affects its dissemination.
Chapter one addresses the five extant manuscripts of the Fables Pierre Aufons, one of two thirteenth-century French verse translations of Petrus Alfonsi’s highly influential Disciplina clericalis. The dynamic approach to reading in this story collection framed by a father-son exchange is reflected in the variety of its co-texts. The diversity of the corpus illustrates its semantic malleability. By contrast, in chapter two, the multi-text codices of the Old French verse Vie des Pères are characterised less by the heterogeneity of their content than the multiple configurations of this story collection. Hence, the central focus is the textual and paratextual organisation of the manuscripts and how other material is integrated into the Vie des Pères. The final chapter brings together the principal approaches from the previous two case studies in its investigation of the manuscripts of the Ysopet attributed to Marie de France, examining in particular how the manuscripts construct the figure of the author and how this affects the reception of the fable collection.
By considering the reading practices underlying composition, compilation and manuscript production, and how textual and paratextual frameworks affect the reading experience offered by story collections and their co-texts, this thesis engages with the layers of reading embedded within the texts and inscribed in the codex. Moreover, it looks at how we, as modern readers, approach the medieval book.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorKaren Pratt (Supervisor) & Simon Gaunt (Supervisor)

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