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The Polyvocality of the Medieval Subject.

Stephen James OSullivan, BA (Hons).

Submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Arts.

Submitted to the English Department, Faculty of Arts, the University of Melbourne, December, 2000.

Produced on Acid-Free Paper.


The ongoing dispute over the nature of medieval individualism is still dominated by the nineteenth-century philologists, most particularly Jacob Burckhardt. On the one side there are those who share with Burckhardt the conviction that medieval individualism is an anachronism; and on the other, the effort to construct a workable definition of the medieval individual, formulated in the work of Colin Morris, David Aers, Lee Patterson, and others, is still overshadowed by Burckhardts claims. It appears that for these writers, the notion of the birth of the individual is still tied to a progressivist teleology, and is, moreover, inextricably linked to the modern, rationalist cogito. In such a schema the fundamental Burckhardtian narrative is maintained, subject to the one qualification: the birth of the individual is seen to have happened before the Italian Renaissance. This effort to construct what Burt Kimmelman describes as a workable definition of medieval individualism, based on the modern account of the autonomous cogito, is flawed. Although such schemas have as their fundamental aim the refutation of the image of the Middle Ages as static monolith, the endeavour to reveal individual subjectivities toward the end of the medieval epoch prioritises a modern conception of the cogito over a more intrinsically medieval one. Despite the repudiation of progressivism, the motivation for these approaches appears to be the assumption that individualism represents a higher evolutionary step than communalism. In this light, such schemas seek to lend a modern legitimacy to the late Middle Ages.

Instead, the medieval individual must be understood not as autonomous but inextricably confined within a field of intersubjectivity. Based on memoria, this intersubjective field is indistinguishable from intertextuality. Just as the construction of a text is a process of decontextualization and recontextualization, a process that is ineluctably intertextual, so the medieval subject must be understood not as a single voice, but as polyvocal. It could be argued at this point that there is very little difference between this stance and the Burckhardtian paradigm detailed above. However, whereas in the past the polyvocality of the medieval subject has been understood in terms of lacklack of autonomy, lack of maturityit is, in fact, the product of a mature metaphysical position, fully cognizant of the dangerous allure of autonomy, that bears remarkable similarities to postmodern metaphysics. For this reason, it is possible to renew the endeavour to construct a workable definition of medieval individualism, unburdened by the commitments of modernism that by necessity characterized itself as light to the medieval dark.

This is to certify that

(i) (ii) the thesis comprises only my original work except where indicated, due acknowledgement has been made in the text to all other material used, (iii) the thesis is 32,000 words in length, exclusive of footnotes and bibliography.


I wish to thank the English Department for the opportunity to complete this thesis. My appreciation also goes to the friends and colleagues, in the English and Philosophy Departments, and outside, off whom I insistently bounced ideas, and without whom this thesis would not have developed so far. In addition, I would like to thank Bernard Muir and Brian Scarlett for allowing me to sit in on their course, Critical Moments in Western Thought, 3001500. Most especially, my deepest gratitude must go to my supervisor, Stephanie Trigg, for her continued and boundless energy, support and encouragement, accurate and perceptive criticism, and, in particular, for introducing me to the debate surrounding the medieval individual.


Introduction The Medieval Individual A postmodern Approach Overview Chapter 1. Five Themes in The Name of the Rose 15 20 28 35 9 10 12


Introduction Liber Vitae Creation and Recapitulation History and Subjectivity Chapter 2. Approaches to Medieval Individualism

37 37 38 49 54 57 60 61 61 67 76 80 84 93 93 100 106 111 115

Prcis Medieval Individualism: A Critique The Traditional and the Modern Medieval Individualism: A Position Literary Nominalism Medieval Individualism: Desideratum Chapter 3. Cyclicity and Mimesis

The Polyvocal Subject The Augustinian Cogito Cyclicity in Ricardian Poetry A Theory of Mimesis: Autonomy and Madness Madness and Memory Chapter 4. Collective Assemblages of Enunciation

The Metaphysics of Presence Authorial Presence and Memoria Memoria as Textual Graft Conclusion Bibliography


The Medieval Individual

The effort to construct a workable definition of medieval individuality is immediately faced with a troubling contradiction: The notion of the individual, as we know and employ it, is a modern designation and, therefore, not applicable to the Middle Ages. This contradiction is often enough for scholars to reject such an exercise as pointless, and any determinations made in its name as anachronistic. Nevertheless, in increasing numbers, medievalists are determinedly rejecting such a position. The reasons for this are complex, but at its heart lies a far larger issue: The original designation of the medieval epoch as the Middle or Dark Ages and everything that designation signifies. It is not difficult to accept that this original designation had more to do with the early modernist need to have something against which to legitimise their own commitments (Aers 1992, 195) than a true reflection of historical reality. Nevertheless, the Middle Ages remains darkened by this designation. And to it is inextricably tied the narrative of the birth of the individual in the Italian Renaissance, a position typified by Jacob Burckhardts seminal determination that (i)n the Middle Ages . . . (m)an was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people party, family, or corporationonly through some general category (Burckhardt 81). According to Burckhardts schema, the entire medieval epoch is reducible to a single, static entity, its people childishly prepossessed and barely-conscious (81). Consequently, one of the

primary targets in the effort to discredit the representation of the Middle Ages as all-purpose alternative (Patterson, 93) to the modern epoch is the Burckhardtian narrative that credits the Renaissance with the development of a sense of individual selfhood (93). Although my sympathies instinctively lie with such an effort, it is deeply problematic, because, despite appearances, what is primarily being argued is not the nature of identity or self-definition in the Middle Ages, but when the modern sense of the individual was first formulated. Such a programme is revealed as anachronistic, not because the modern individual cannot be recognised as gradually emerging during the late Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, but because in the second half of the twentieth century the modern conception of the individual has been stripped of its metaphysical foundations. In the light of postmodernisms sustained attack on modern epistemological and ontological positions, and in particular, the Cartesian, rationalist cogito, the effort to construct a definition of medieval individualism is revealed as falsely privileging a now largely outmoded metaphysical ideal. Indeed, such a programme maintains a complicity with the very narrative it seeks to revise: The narrative of the birth of the individual, along with the value-judgement it implies, is sustained, but with a chronological adjustment. Nevertheless, the dichotomy remains that of modern individual and pre-modern other.

A Postmodern Approach
The basic historical distortions that inform the apprehension of the Middle Ages underline the very definition of modernity. To revise these distortions means resituating not only the claims foundational to the early modern epoch, but those related to our own historical moment. And it is as precisely a reappraisal of these claims that postmodernism has established its role. As a consequence, medieval studies has received an unexpected fillip; and it is


largely on this basis that the revisionist endeavour to determine the nature of medieval individualism has so recently been advanced. The most useful thrust of postmodernisms determined campaign has certainly been the revocation of what Foucault calls the convenience of terminal truths (Foucault 1965, ix). In a practical sense, this has facilitated the return to supposed relevance of formerly marginalized fields of study, such as medieval studies; and theoretically, the way is opened for new narratives to be formulated, among them the revision of the Burckhardtian master narrative in which the birth of the individual is consanguineous with the birth of the modern epoch. Similarly, my argument hinges on the postmodern reworking of such notions as author, origin, and presence, textuality and subjectivity. In the light of this refashioning of once familiar notions, however, it becomes possible not only to rewrite the hitherto accepted chronology of events that led to the birth of the individual, but to re-examine the hierarchical structure that appears to favour the modern individual over the pre-modern collective or corporate mentality. Because of the inapplicability of the term individual in the Middle Ages (Stallybrass, 593 ff.), and the corresponding suspicion the term arouses in postmodernism, I will, instead, consider the nature of medieval subjectivity. The problem at the core of this issue is that whereas the modern individual is defined in isolationcogito ergo sumit is seemingly impossible to isolate the medieval selfs sense of identity from his or her society, culture and general surroundings. For instance, medieval textual production barely distinguishes between the writer of a text and the intertextual field out of which a text emerges; and when it does, it systematically attaches greater value to the authoritative sources than what we would today call the author. I propose that medieval subjectivity can be understood in similar terms. If subjectivity is understood as that moment of negotiation between the individual and society/culture, then the modern epoch is one in which the subject has been increasingly singularized, a process that, no doubt began in


the late Middle Ages. However, theorists such as Merleau-Ponty and Foucault, Bakhtin and Deleuze, to name a few, have persistently called for the definition of subjectivity to be revised, a process which Flix Guattari articulates as a return to the understanding of the subject as wrought by collective assemblages of enunciation (Guattari, 8). Such a definition resembles a postmodern understanding of textual production. Just as the notion of originality is disputed in postmodernity, supplanted by an endless tautology in which textual production is read as a metaphrastic assemblage of pre-existing texts, decontextualized and recontextualized, so the subject is understood as an assemblage. And this is precisely the nature of the medieval subject. The postmodern demand for a modification of our understanding of subjectivity, from a singularized subject to a polysemous, polyvocal subject must perforce alter our perception of the emergence of the modern individual. The progressivist, teleological understanding inherent in the Burckhardtian narrative and constructed by early modernists must be discarded in order to fully appreciate both the individuation of the subject and the loss of its polyvocality.

In the attempt to broadly outline a more effective approach to the study of medieval subjectivity, I will largely confine this work to the theoretical level, though in the process I will point towards a variety of possible critical applications. I have chosen to begin with Umberto Ecos The Name of the Rose. The outstanding feature of this novel, in the context of my argument, is that, as a postmodern rendering of the late Middle Ages, it confronts what I see as the major themes surrounding that historical movement from the Middle Ages to the early modern epoch, but does so unclouded by a commitment to modernity. Indeed, Eco explicitly parallels this movement to that from modernity to postmodernity. I will outline five major themes in the novel


which have a direct bearing on the reevaluation of medieval subjectivity, most particularly in its relation to textuality, themes that will serve as the foundation of my case. In short, Eco investigates the parallel medieval and postmodern textualization of the world, articulating the related epistemological aporias, particularly the indefinite line between truth and fiction, the dichotomy of the universal and the individual, and the doubt surrounding the notion of originality, concluding that in both epochs, all discourse is understood as tautology. With this groundwork in place, I will critique a number of approaches to the construction of a workable definition of medieval individualism, most notably the work of David Aers, Lee Patterson, Burt Kimmelman and Richard Utz. In this way, I will position my argument in relation to these influential programmes, showing both where I concur, but more importantly, where my argument diverges. At the same time, I will address the major issues at stake in the articulation of medieval individualism. In the third chapter, I will attempt to construct a working definition of the medieval polyvocal subject, situating it in relation both to medieval literary, theological and philosophical positions, particularly the writings of Augustine and the Ricardian poets, and postmodern positions, particularly the work of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari. On the basis of this, I will close with a reading of Thomas Hoccleves Complaint, which I take to be primarily a study of the dialectical nature of medieval subjectivity. Hoccleves madness is the means for a consideration of identity, both as it is socially constructed and individually perceived, and as such, articulates well the issues at stake towards the end of the Middle Ages, in the lead up to the modern individuation of the subject. Finally, I will expand on the ideas articulated in Chapter Three, with particular emphasis on the link between subjectivity and textuality. Thus, I return to the issues introduced in the first chapter in the light of the intervening argument. I conclude that the common medieval practice of authorial


anonymity and the systematic deferment to pre-existing textual authority is not the result of blind adherence to tradition, but, in fact, no different than the Derridean notion of the continuous and inescapable decontextualization and recontextualization of pre-existing texts. Such a position, I propose, is founded upon the metaphysical conviction that the text, like the subject, is an assemblage, a product of the decontextualization of diverse discourse and their recontextualization in memoria. Thus, I establish a parallel between the text as assemblage of pre-existing texts, and the subject as collected assemblage of enunciation. In all, I hope to establish a more useful approach to the understanding of the construction of medieval identity, in the belief that approaches to this field have been clouded by an unreasonable prejudice against the articulation of any form of subjectivity contrary to the modern individuated subject. As a result of this prejudice, the medieval subject has been defined in terms of lack, most particularly lack of autonomy and self-consciousness. But the foundation of my case is the firm conviction that the medieval polyvocal subject is the result of a metaphysical position that is fundamentally medieval, and not the naive and prepossessed state suggested by Burckhardt. Hence, I suggest that while we celebrate the individuation of the subject, whether in the Renaissance or earlier, we also mourn the loss of its polyvocality.



Five Themes in The Name of the Rose

As literary and Aristotelian logic became widespread, (late medieval)* poets contributed to a distinction being made between history and fiction; they employed contemporary ideas about language and its relationship to experience as both metaphor and theme. Furthermore, they elaborated a Western sensibility that had been articulated at least as early as Plato, Paul, and Augustine who . . . essentially viewed the world as a text. This basic metaphor ultimately formed the later medieval outlook; text, and language and/or discourse, maintained fluid interrelationships. (Kimmelman, 6) Umberto Ecos 1980 novel The Name of the Rose presents a unique resource to the medievalist contemplating the impact of postmodernism on medieval scholarship. My reasoning is simply that Ecos novel is a postmodern representation of the late Middle Ages, and as such clearly outlines the major themes, according to Eco, at issue in both eras, setting up each as the speculum of the other. Specifically, by focusing on the impact of the inchoate shift toward modernity inherent in the late Middle Ages, Eco successfully represents what is at stake in the postmodern reevaluation of modernity. Hence, not only are the Middle Ages read through postmodernism, but conversely, postmodernism is read through the Middle Ages. For this reason, and in order to effectively outline the major themes, as I see them, at issue in

Guilem IX, Marcabru, Dante, Chaucer and Langland.


the study of medieval subjectivity, I will begin with a detailed analysis of the way these themes are presented in the novel. The Name of the Rose is primarily concerned with the confrontation between the traditional and the new. Although Eco does not explicitly examine the nature of medieval subjectivity in the novel, this conflict is represented as a confrontation between the communal and the individual. The traditional community of the monastery is, seemingly, torn asunder by the introduction of a single itinerant Franciscan. Thematically, the modern is explicitly linked with individualism, rationalism and science, while the traditional is linked with communalism and unquestioning faith. Despite Ecos sympathetic portrayal of the former and at times unsympathetic rendering of the latter, it could be argued strictly in terms of narrative that the introduction of the modern individual into the medieval community leads not only to the destruction of that community but to the loss of its collective intellectual property. Indeed, the narrator Adso remains ambivalent throughout, and in the end, though tempted by the individualism and rationalism of his master, returns to the fold of his community. Be that as it may, medieval subjectivity remains an implicit undercurrent of the novel, an undercurrent implied by the more overt themes that present themselves. These themes have specifically to do with the conflict between the modern and the traditional, and so foreground well what is at stake during those several hundred years in which the Middle Ages gave way to the Modern Age. It is my contention that five basic themes present themselves. The first and primary theme is that of textuality, in particular the reading of the world as text. The second theme, related to the first, is the opposition between truth and fiction. And as a consequence of this, the third theme, founded upon this questioning of epistemological security and, hence, our notion of truth, is the conflict between the universal and the individual (i.e. Realism and nominalism). Fourth is the problem of originality, which is maintained


throughout the novel in terms of the tension between creation and recapitulation. And, as an extension of these first four, the fifth theme is the concept that all speech is tautology. On the basis of these five themes, I would propose a model for the understanding of medieval individuality, a term considered by many to be an anachronism, founded upon that residual form of individuality inherent in the moment of intersubjectivity. In the following chapters, I intend to draw a parallel between the medieval individuals position within the framework of intersubjectivity and the individual texts position within a systematic model of intertextuality. Just as the delineation of a text from the intertextual relations within which it resides and functions is elided in the Middle Ages, so the individual medieval subject cannot be determined outside the commonality of intersubjective discourse. The question of the preeminence of tradition and authority in the Middle Ages (and the elision of originality that is taken to be its consequence) I would turn on its axis: the institution wherein a text is taken to be based on an authority (auctoritas) that is most often in the past (wherein the writer cedes authority for a text to its sources) can be seen not as the abjurement of originality in favour of established traditions and their recapitulation, but as the acceptance and institutionalisation of the understanding that all texts are interwoven and cannot escape the echoes of intertextuality (Eco 1984b, 20). Thus, the production of new ideas in the Middle Ages will be shown to rest upon the very subjective process of recontextualizing that store of knowledge held in memoria. Read in this way, the act of writing is understood as primarily the decontextualization and recontextualization of preexisting works and tropes, not the spontaneous induction of a text somehow outside the fold of intertextuality. The production of a text that is self-consciously intertextual I see as an act of subjectivism: the writer consciously marshals his sources, setting them in a new context, relating one source to another, and often


elaborating on this process in self-reflexive analysis. The idea of originality, then, is understood not as creation, but rather metaphrastic

recontextualization. And just as creative and intellectual expression can be seen as a process of assemblage, the product a collage, so the individual can be seen as an assemblage, built of ones upbringing and ones present circumstances. Herein lies the central issue at stake in the postmodern reevaluation of the medieval subject. Our understanding of the concepts subject and individual have broadened at the same time that the notion of the autonomy of the self has been discredited. In this light the medieval subject can be reexamined as a complex metaphysical construct that was lost with the birth of the individual rather than the ingenuous position of the childishly prepossessed. Mary Carruthers, in the introduction to her work, The Book of Memory, illuminates the shift in the relative status of imagination and memory (Carruthers, 1) between the Middle Ages and the modern epoch, during which imagination has shifted from the apparently lowly, working-day status accorded it in the Middle Ages, to our highest creative power (1). And she asserts that because of the apparent lowly station accorded imagination, particularly in relation to memory, modern scholars have often concluded that medieval people did not value originality or creativity (1). But in a comparison between Leopold Infelds description of Albert Einstein and Bernardo Guis description of Thomas Aquinas taken from the testimony of Thomas of Celano, it becomes clear that for both the originality of their thinking motivates the highest esteem from their contemporaries. Bernardo praises Thomass many original discoveries (3), but whereas Infelds similar praise for Einstein is ascribed to his intuition and imagination unrestricted by a definite track (2), Thomass originality is linked to his memory, described as extremely rich and retentive (3). The difference between these two descriptions of creative activity rests in the attribution of motivating forces.


Human beings did not suddenly acquire imagination and intuition with Coleridge, having previously been poor clods. The difference is that whereas now geniuses are said to have creative imagination which they express in intricate reasoning and original discovery, in earlier times they were said to have richly retentive memories, which they expressed in intricate reasoning and original discovery. (4) Recognition of this contrast is not new, but the nature of imagination, and thus the verisimilitude of the apparent autonomy of genius, is not at once clear. Jacques Derrida, in his analysis of Condillacs Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge, explains that although (t)he Essay attributes invention to genius rather than talent, we cannot pretend to understand what genius means. And he suggests that, following Condillac, we should begin with frayage: the possibility of a new combination, a creation in some measure (Derrida 1987, 61). Condillac is more explicit:

We do not properly create any ideas; we only combine, by composing and decomposing, those which we receive by the senses. Invention consists in knowing how to make new combinations . . . . (61 [Essay, 1, 2, 104, 97]) Such a definition eradicates the mistaken notion that imagination requires an act of hermetic abduction, and as a consequence, elides completely the

distinction between the medieval and the modern genius. And in the same movement, the notion of originality is reduced from a similarly hermetic process to one of discovering previously unrecognised combinations. The individual medieval subject I would define, therefore, as a nexus, bound inextricably to memoria and community. Such an individual is altogether opposed to the Cartesian ego, though both variants are founded on the Augustinian cogito; but it does not, for its polysemous nature, represent some lesser understanding of consciousness. Rather, I would argue that we


can, in the late Middle Ages, witness a form of individual consciousness fully aware of its polyvocality, and as such, attaining toward a notion of subjectivity that bears remarkable similarities with those of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Liber Vitae
The opening lines of the main text of The Name of the Rose, ascribed to Adso or Adson of Melk, echoing the opening lines of the Gospel according to John, goes: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Eco 1984a, 11). As a postmodern author, Umberto Eco revels in the irony of the fact that for the postmodern (atheist) writer/scholar today much the same is true, although the emphasis would be modified: the Word is God. Similarly, Jorge Luis Borges envisages a universe, which is no more than an indefinite and perhaps infinite library (Borges, 78). His is a universe dominated by chance, in which reason and order are perhaps the exception, a feverish Library whose chance volumes are constantly in danger of changing into others and affirm, negate and confuse everything like a delirious divinity (84). Hence, to the superstitious, God is either a great circular book, whose spine is continuous, a book that represents the Library as a whole (79); or He is the Man of the Book, he who has read that book that is the formula and perfect compendium of all the rest (83). Borgess delirious divinity is not unlike the God that dominates William of Baskervilles world, a universe in which there cannot be an order . . . because it would offend the free will of God and His omnipotence (Eco 1984a, 492-493): the very concept that universal laws and an established order exist would imply that God is their prisoner, whereas God is something absolutely


free, so that if He wanted, with a single act of His will He could make the world different. (207) William is here grappling with the dichotomy between the individual proposition and the assumed universal laws that embrace such a proposition, between the ultimate and the more immediate, between the desire for order, the pursuit of reason and the belief that the universe is intrinsically chaotic. In short, the world of The Name of the Rose is a contingent one, dominated by necessary power. If the Word (is) God, it is not surprising then, that for William, the world speaks to us like a great book (23), in which signs abound, the endless array of symbols with which God, through His creatures, speaks to us of the eternal life. But the universe is even more talkative . . . , it speaks not only of the ultimate things (which it does always in an obscure fashion) but also of closer things, and then it speaks quite clearly. (24) Throughout the novel, William wrestles with the implications of the dialectical relationship between an empirical, experienced truth, and the universal rule that makes it so; between the sign that is meaningful to he who can read the great book of nature (24-25) Snow, dear Adso, is an admirable parchment on which mens bodies leave very legible writing (105)and the rule that gives that sign permanence. In short, Umberto Ecos scholarly Franciscan is grappling with the dichotomy of nominalism and Realism: the basis of Williams struggle is the nature of perception; and central to this problem, and that of any revisionary metaphysics, lies the philosophers desire for truth. In this way, Eco suggests that poststructuralist semioticsonlyfunction in a contingent, nominalistic world (Utz, 9). Because the nature of perception is so bound to the concept of the word and textuality, central to this quandary, and indeed the very heart of Umberto


Ecos novel, is the dichotomy of truth and fiction, an issue central also to the work of Borges: Borgess fictions, like the enormous fiction of Don Quixote, grow out of the deep confrontation of literature and life which is not only the central problem of all literature but also that of all human experience: the problem of illusion and reality. We are all at once writers, readers and protagonists of some eternal story; we fabricate our illusions, seek to decipher the symbols around us and see our efforts overtopped and cut short by a supreme Author . . . . (Borges, 21)* Augustine recognised that the relationship between signifier and signified was an arbitrary one, and was as a result of consensus. This, a relatively new, even radical idea at the time, stood in direct opposition to the idea that words are somehow substantially related to the objects, actions or notions they name (Vance, 39-40). Augustine protests: how remote is the sound of the voice from the intellectual flash when it does not even resemble the imprint on the memory! (De cat. ii.4). This concept, leading to the conclusion that language is always at a remove from reality, places books and language in a subsidiary and derivative cultural role in relation to the role of memoria (Carruthers, 10), for meaning is derived solely through interaction with memory. Carruthers writes: A work is not truly read until one has made it part of oneselfthat process constitutes a necessary stage of its textualization (10). The readers interaction with the text, then, is facilitated through memoria: on a simple level, a form of intertextuality is at work here, as a text is read through the memory of other texts, much as a word gains meaning in the relation between its immediate use and its previous usage over time; and at the same time, the text is absorbed into memory, merging with the reader. In this light, Borges asks in the essay Partial Magic in the Quixote, why it disturbs us that the

Such is the nature of the existence of Tom Stoppards characters Rosencrantz and Guildensternthus, Guildenstern states: Words, words. Theyre all we have to go on (Stoppard, 30).


thousand and one nights (be included) in the book of the Thousand and One Nights?; or that Don Quixote be a reader of the Quixote and Hamlet a spectator of Hamlet? To which he answers: these inversions suggest that if the characters of a fictional work can be readers or spectators, we, its readers or spectators, can be fictitious. In 1833, Carlyle observed that the history of the universe is an infinite sacred book that all men write and read and try to understand, and in which they are also written. (Borges, 231) It is in this vein, and specifically with reference to the relationship between the whole, the infinite sacred book, and the individuals part in this whole, that the narrator Adso continues the opening lines to his manuscript: This was beginning with God and the duty of every faithful monk would be to repeat every day with chanting humility the one never-changing event whose incontrovertible truth can be asserted [the truth that in the beginning was the word . . .]. But we see now through a glass darkly, and the truth, before it is revealed to all, face to face, we see in fragments (alas, how illegible) . . . . (Eco 1984a, 11) The medieval notion of memoria is significant in this respect because it represents the process of internalization, and more generally the process of institutionalization of a work of literature (Carruthers, 9). Thus, John Wyclif argues from the Augustinian perspective that the truth of Holy Scripture is far greater than the words that express them, and by extension, the words themselves become memorial clues and traces of pre-existing truth (9). For Wyclif, then, the necessity for continued interpretation and adaptation is bound to the ongoing search for the Truth as a whole, what he calls liber vitae, the book of life in the actual person of Christ (9). It is inherent in the very notion of the liber vitae, the infinite sacred book, or whatever one chooses to call it, that though the search for the truth is never ending, we see it only in


fragments. Thus, Augustine declares that whereas everyone can easily hear a whole verse or even a whole poem, no one can grasp the whole order of the ages. And he suggests that because (t)he course of history is made up of our labors, and hence, we exist as mere parts of the secular order, like being involved as parts of a poem, no one individual can comprehend the whole (De vera rel. xxii. 43). Although William only acknowledges the mathematical sciences (as propositions constructed by our intellect in such a way that they function always as truths) to be a site of the absolute, of universal notions (Eco 1984, 215), he is, throughout the novel, besieged by the desire for the absolute. James Irby describes Borges in a remarkably similar light: His idealist insistence on knowledge and insight, which means finding order and becoming part of it, has a definite moral significance, though that significance is for him dual: his traitors are always somehow heroes as well . . . . He is the dreamer who learns he is the dreamed one, the detective deceived by the hidden pattern of crimes . . . . (Borges, 20-21) In the end, faced with the destruction, not only of the second book of Poetics, but of the entire library, William berates himself for having been deceived by the hidden pattern of crimes: I behaved stubbornly, pursuing a semblance of order, when I should have known well that there is no order in the universe (Eco 1984a, 492). Williams stance is in this way not unlike that of the postmodernist. William, in his analysis of the world, acknowledges only signs, and the petits truths one can derive from them. He renounces what Foucault calls the convenience of terminal truths (Foucault 1965, ix). In the opening lines of his preface to The Order of Things, Foucault founds his text on the mutability of intellectual constructs. For Foucault, the exotic charm of another system of thought demonstrates the limitation of our own: thus we are motivated to ask, with Foucault, what is it impossible to think? (xv). Foucaults sustained


attack on the inalienable rights of history is occasioned by the motivation to collapse our age old distinction between Same and Other (Foucault 1972, 14). In a similar fashion, postmodernism denies the holism propounded by modernism in favour of eclecticism and plurality: The grands rcits that provided legitimation, specifically the narratives of human emancipation and the unification of knowledge, have lost all credibility. What has taken their place are the petits rcits of individual language games. Consensus (about what is real) has become an outmoded and suspect value, replaced by a plurality of formal and axiomatic systems capable of arguing the truth of denotative statements, a truth that is determined not by correspondence to reality but by performativity, that is, by usefulness. The question is no longer Is it true? but Does it work? Does it produce new moves in the language game, new ideas, new processes, new products? With the disappearance of the grand rcit, the idea of totality disappears as well . . .. (Patterson, 89, quoting Lyotard, 66, 43) To return to John Wyclifs position, above, it must be conceded that the Truth that is God is in fact a totality, but despite this, in intellectual and philosophical terms, his position is not dissimilar to that espoused above: for Wyclif the totality of the book of life is unattainable in this life. As Augustine laments, if fleshly sense had been capable of comprehending the whole, and had not, for your punishment, been restricted to but a part of the universe, God would want humankind to share in complete and unqualified understanding (conf. IV. x. 15). The quandary this conception spawns is the motivation, I believe, behind William of Baskervilles final, dejected intercourse with Adso: Its hard to accept the idea that there cannot be an order in the universe because it would offend the free will of god and His omnipotence. So the freedom of God is our condemnation, or at least the condemnation of our pride. I dared, for the first and last time in my life, to express a theological conclusion: But how can a necessary being exist totally polluted with


the possible?* What difference is there, then, between God and primigenial chaos? Isnt affirming Gods absolute omnipotence and His absolute freedom with regard to his own choices tantamount to demonstrating that God does not exist? William looked at me without betraying any feeling in his features, and he said, How could a learned man go on communicating his learning if he answered yes to your question? (Eco 1984a, 492-493) Foucaults confrontation with this problem is occasioned by a principle he defines in relation to Borges: That passage of Borges kept me laughing a long time, though not without a certain uneasiness that I found hard to shake off. Perhaps because there arose in its wake the suspicion that there is a worse kind of disorder than that of the incongruous, the linking together of things that are inappropriate; I mean the disorder in which fragments of a large number of possible orders glitter separately in the dimension, without law or geometry, of the heteroclite . . . . (Foucault 1970 1994, xvii) For William, these fragmentary possible orders are based on both observation and perception, yet their fragmentary nature forbids the possibility of ever conceiving one universal order. Hence, he says: The simple have something more than do learned doctors, who often become lost in their search for broad, general laws. The simple have a sense of the individual. The problem created by this conception is that if the sense of the individual is the only good, how will science succeed in recomposing the universal laws (Eco 1984a, 206)? Because if only the sense of the individual is just, the proposition that identical causes have identical effects is difficult to prove. A single body can be cold or hot, sweet or bitter, wet or dry, in one placeand not in another place. How can I discover the universal bond that orders things if I cannot lift a finger without creating an infinity of new entities? For with such a movement all the relations of position between my finger

Nominalists such as Ockham answer Adsos question by stressing the distinction between Gods potentia absoluta and potentia ordinata.


and all other objects change. The relations are the ways in which my mind perceives the connections between single entities, but what is the guarantee that this is universal and stable? (206-207) His answer to these questions is to propose that by witnessing a number of individuals one can discern a pattern, a fragmentary order: To be sure, anyone who investigates the curative property of herbs knows that individual herbs of the same species have equal effects of the same nature on the patient, and therefore the investigator formulates the proposition that every herb of a given type helps the feverish, or that every lens of such a type magnifies the eye's vision to the same degree . . . . I must believe that my proposition works, because I learned it by experience; but to believe it I must assume there are universal laws. (207) The limit of William's acceptance of order is empirical perception, hence, William continues, I feel so uncertain of my truth, even if I believe in it. Without the absolute knowledge of the liber vitae and confronted with a contingent world, Williams search for truth is built up piece by piece, uncertain though it isjust as Adso can hope only to ascertain fragments of the truth, which Wyclif describes as clues and traces. The truth, then, is something to be built up of fragments, fragments that are ever changing. As Augustine puts it, God has disposed the logos of history as a set of rhetorical oppositions (Vance, 47), the foundation of which is the dichotomy of good and evil, thus embellishing the course of ages, as if it were an exquisite poem set off with antitheses (De civ. Dei II. xxiii). The creation, then, is a region of difference (regio dissimilitudinis) in more than one sense: not only is it absolutely different from a God who may not be known except through Christ and by the via negativa, but the temporal creation is always different from itself. (Vance, 47) Hence, the need for continued interpretation and commentary, willing to evolve with the contingencies of time. It is, thus, telling that the novel is so


dedicated to the conflict between the new and the old, between invention and reiteration.

Creation and Recapitulation

It is within the context of such renaissance, such rebirthin which inspiration dominated imitation, and in which ancient resources nourished the initiatives of a new spiritthat the theme man is a microcosm, with all that it implied for the relationships of man and nature, received literary, esthetic, and doctrinal elaboration. One is immediately struck by the apparently sudden but in any case widespread diffusion of the theme in the first decades of the twelfth century. (Chenu, 28-29) The question of originality and recapitulation is not only intrinsic to The Name of the Rose but central to the historical distinction between the Middle Ages and the early modern. Ernst Curtius points out that after 1170 there were two hostile factions: the humanistically minded disciples of antique poetry, and the moderni. The latterrepresent a new poetics. They are masters of a virtuoso style formed in the practice of dialectics, and hence consider themselves to be superior to the ancients (Calinescu, 15). Citing Paul de Man, Lee Patterson questions the stance postmodernism takes in relation to modernism, an ambiguous relation in which it at once contests and recuperates its predecessor; but he specifically raises this question in relation to modernisms purist erasure of history. As Paul de Man explained, whenever the cultural imperative of modernity was posited, as, for instance, in the Renaissance or in earlytwentieth-century Modernism [and since, as Calinescu states, the idea of modernity was born during the Christian Middle Ages (13), one can add to this the so-called twelfth century renaissance*], it took the form

Moreover, Curtius writes: Not until the sixth century does the new and happy formation modernus . . . appear, and now Cassiodorus can celebrate an author in rolling rhyme as antiquorum diligentissimus imitator, modernorum nobilissimus institutor (Variae, IV, 51) (Curtius, 254).


of a desire to wipe out whatever came earlier, in the hope of reaching at last a point that could be called a true present, a point of origin that marks a new departure. (Patterson, 88) It is in the light of the present trend towards the rejection of the modernist programme, and surely with great irony, therefore, that one should read the initial narrators comments in The Name of the Rose, to the end of the prefatory gloss, dated January 1980, particularly with reference to his opinion regarding the texts relevance today: I transcribe my text with no concern for timeliness. In the years when I discovered the Abbe Vallet volume, there was a widespread conviction that one should write only out of a commitment to the present, in order to change the world. Now, after ten years or more, the man of letters (restored to his loftiest dignity) can happily write out of pure love of writing. And so I now feel free to tell, for sheer narrative pleasure, the story of Adso of Melk, and I am comforted and consoled in finding it immeasurably remote in time (now that the waking of reason has dispelled the monsters that its sleep had generated), gloriously lacking in any relevance for our day, atemporally alien to our hopes and our certainties. (Eco 1984a, 5) It is clear that Umberto Eco, if not his scholarly narrator, was well aware of the timeliness of his novel, as well as the very evident relevance that much of its insights bore on 1980, as indeed they continue to bear today. As Andr Maurois writes in the preface to Borges Labyrinths: Any great and lasting book must be ambiguous, Borges says; it is a mirror that makes the readers features known, but the author must seem to be unaware of the significance of his work . . . . (Borges,10) The Name of the Rose was timely, and remains so, because it broaches two most distinct times, the one dealing with the ramifications of a time, barely


decades past, in which the cultural imperative of modernity was posited, and the other barely preceding such a time. Burt Kimmelman foregrounds his study of late medieval authorship by setting up a relationship between (l)ater medieval language theory and that which, from todays perspective it anticipates, albeit distantly, modern linguistics and post-structuralism (Kimmelman, 1). (Indeed, Eco writes, in reference to his past study of the Middle Ages, of the rational comforts sought in Occam, to understand the mystery of the Sign where Saussure is still obscure [Eco 1984b, 18].) Kimmelman asserts that in the light of poststructuralisms position on the fragility of our own categories of knowledge, the fact that several hundred years after Anselm and Abelard, after Guillem IX and Marcabru, the line between theology and other bodies of knowledge was drawn so faintly as to be, at times, indiscernible, brings into question what is still, basically, our scholarly belief in two worlds, theirs and ours, the medieval past and the postmodern present (Kimmelman, 1). In the comparison between the late Middle Ages, immediately preceding a time in which modernity and the modern were to become the dominant cultural force, and the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, in which the precepts of modernity are under sustained scrutiny, it is possible to recognise parallel tensions and concerns. In The Name of the Rose, the era nearing the end of the Middle Ages can be seen as parallel and illustrative of the shift from the modern to the postmodern. I state this with particular reference to the dichotomy drawn most emphatically during the course of the novel between the act of reiteration and that of creation, a dichotomy that is tied irrevocably to the secular tensions and power struggles that dominate the three-way philosophical discourse between the papal delegates, the Benedictines and the Emperor, through the Franciscan theologians. The revisitation of the past, in the form of recapitulationEverything that involves commentary and clarification of Scripture must be preserved, because


it enhances the glory of the divine writings (Eco 1984a, 399-400)is set up in direct opposition to the creation of new textsWhat is the sin of pride that can tempt a scholar-monk? That of considering as his task not preserving but seeking some information not yet vouchsafed mankind . . . (400). The dichotomy and conflict is well defined in Adsos meditation on the subject: Temptations, to be sure; intellectual pride. Quite different was the scribe-monk imagined by our sainted founder, capable of copying without understanding, surrendered to the will of God, writing as if praying, and praying inasmuch as he was writing. Why was it no longer so? . . . The abbey where I was staying was probably the last to boast of excellence in the production and reproduction of learning. But perhaps for this very reason, the monks were no longer content with the holy work of copying; they wanted also to produce new complements of nature, impelled by the lust for novelty. (184) The impulse towards novelty signifies the impending prominence of the modern, the drive for the new, characteristic of the Renaissance. Linking these thoughts to the silence and the darkness that surrounds the library as the preserve of learning, Adso watches a rubricator, Magnus of Iona, preparing vellum with pumice stone, while another, Rabano of Toledo, was drawing very fine horizontal lines on a parchment fixed to a desk, both sheets soon to be filled with colors and shapes. He concludes from this that: Those two brothers . . . are living their hours of paradise on earth. They were producing new books, just like those that time would inexorably destroy . . . . Therefore, the library could not be threatened by any earthly force, it was a living thing. (185) Adsos conclusion, which leaves him in a state of personal conflict*, embraces both the creation of new complements of nature and the eternal process of

I felt confused, afraid of my own thoughts. Perhaps they were not fitting for a novice, who should only follow the Rule scrupulously and humbly through all the years to comewhich is


preservation, in which literature, embodied in the labyrinthine structure of the library, is conceived as an independent and self-fulfilling entity. The conception of literature as an entity independent of creator, producer, consumer, and, moreover, conceived in the form of a vast and labyrinthine library is not new, but it is particularly relevant to the postmodern definition of literature. For Borges, the image of the library serves to illustrate the basic (postmodern) principle of reiteration, of the palimpsest. His is a vision of writing as an eternal fugue, in which everything has already been writtenTo speak is to fall into tautology (Borges, 85), hence the modern quest for the grail of originality is rendered obsolete. Borges is always quick to confess his sources and borrowings, because for him no one has claim to originality in literature; all writers are more or less faithful amanuenses of the spirit, translators and annotators of pre-existing archetypes. (19) Or, as Julia Kristeva writes in Desire in Language, (a)ny text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations (and is) the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of intertextuality replaces that of intersubjectivity (Kristeva, 66). In the light of these stances, it is interesting to note that the title troubadour is derived from the verb trobar, to find. To compose a courtly love song is to find a song, to come upon a language that is always already there. The song does not emanate from or originate within an individual subject, but rather the subject appropriates a song whose origin is elsewhere and that is not, properly speaking, the singers own property. The individual troubadour is not a creator, nor an originator of song, but rather a trobador, a finder of a song that pre-exists the act of composition. (Stone, 6)

what I subsequently did, without asking myself further questions, while around me the world was sinking deeper and deeper into a storm of blood and madness (186).


The postmodern stance adumbrated above is not dissimilar to that represented by Eco in The Name of the Rose, though the process is here reversed, witness as it is to the period barely preceding the Renaissance: the dichotomy is between originality and reiteration (or, at least, imaginative and independent reiteration), and the site of this dichotomy is the greatest library in Christendom, conceived as a great labyrinth. It is in this light, though distorted by fundamentalist dogmatism and excessive religious zealotry, coupled with what William characterizes as a diabolism that is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt, (Eco 1984a, 477) that the venerable Jorges fervent diatribe during compline at the end of day five, can be read: of our work, the work of our order and in particular the work of this monastery, a partindeed, the substanceis study, and the preservation of knowledge. Preservation of, I say, not search for, because the property of knowledge, as a divine thing, is that it is complete and has been defined since the beginning, in the perfection of the Word which expresses itself to itself. Preservation, I say, and not search, because it is a property of knowledge, as a human thing, that it has been defined and completed over the course of the centuries. There is no progress, no revolution of ages, in the history of knowledge, but at most a continuous and sublime recapitulation. (399, my italics) For Borges, it is sufficient that the writer recognise that his own style (is) at best only a translation of others (Borges, 21). The postmodern twist of this very medieval concept, a concept intrinsic to medieval literature (I refer here specifically to the precedence afforded established sources, auctores, intrinsic to the medieval production of literary texts) can be seen in the very structure of Ecos text, conceived as it is as an Italian version of an obscure, neo-Gothic French version of a seventeenth-century Latin edition of a work written in Latin by a German monk toward the end of the fourteenth century (Eco 1984a, 4); a modern text that claims to preserve not only the original text,


but also the liberties, stylistic and otherwise, taken by Abbe Vallet. And, indeed, to draw the parallel one step closer, with particular reference to The Library of BabelMost of the books in this library are unintelligible, letters thrown together by chance or perversely repeated, but sometimes, in this labyrinth of letters, a reasonable line or sentence is found (Borges, 12)in his post-script, Adso associates his text with the collected remains of the books of the razed labyrinthine library: At the end of my patient reconstruction, I had before me a kind of lesser library, a symbol of the greater, vanished one: a library made up of fragments, quotations, unfinished sentences, amputated stumps of books. . . . The more I reread this list the more I am convinced it is the result of chance and contains no message. But these incomplete pages have accompanied me through all the life that has been left me to live since then; I have often consulted them like an oracle, and I have almost had the impression that what I have written on these pages, which you will now read, unknown reader, is only a cento, a figured hymn, an immense acrostic that says and repeats nothing but what those fragments have suggested to me, nor do I know whether thus far I have been speaking of them or they have spoken through my mouth. (Eco 1984a, 500-501) In this way, both Eco, through the ironic interchange with his present day scholarly translator, and the character Adso, the Benedictine monk, reveal their works to be both new and old. Both methods are, effectively, in response to modernity: for Eco it is the postmodernists claim to the past; for Adso, his character, it is the pre-modernists almost bitter attempt to hold onto his right to the past. Put another way, in the postmodernists campaign to rediscover the past, to reinvest the past with importance, it is possible to recognise what the late-medieval writer faced losing. Stone takes a not dissimilar position, asserting that the death of the troubadour that is the reverse side of the naissance of the individual is mourned and resisted in certain late medieval literary texts (Stone , 12). With the birth of the autonomous ego, of the


individual who must, by necessity be isolated from the past as much as from the idea of practice or cultural coding, occurs the simultaneous death of the anonymous ego of song, and the acceptance of the idea that to speak is to fall into tautology.

History and Subjectivity

Intrinsic to the structure of Umberto Ecos popular and scholarly novel is the confrontation between truth and fiction, a confrontation that, I believe, is embodied in the discourse we call historyRose is constructed as a translation of an unreliable transcription/translation of a doubtful original; and, as I briefly outlined above, the problem of truth/fiction is one of the major preoccupations of the characters in the novel. The first articulates the problematic nature of the historians task as it is confronted in the late twentieth century; the second outlines the very similar problems faced by the late medieval, specifically nominalist philosopher/theologian. The link that is established by Eco between these two perspectives of the same problem lies at the heart of my approach to the question of subjectivity in the Middle Ages. Thus, I contend that the question of the nature of subjectivity in the Middle Ages is inextricably tied to the nature of historiography. In The Archaeology of Knowledge, Michel Foucault articulates well this link: The cry goes up that one is murdering history whenever, in a historical analysisand especially if it is concerned with thought, ideas, or knowledge one is seen to be using in too obvious a way the categories of discontinuity and difference, the notions of threshold, rupture and transformation, the description of series and limits. One will be denounced for attacking the inalienable rights of history and the very foundations of any possible historicity. But one must not be deceived: what is being bewailed with such vehemence is not the disappearance of history, but the eclipse of that form of history that was secretly, but entirely related to the synthetic activity of the subject; what is being bewailed is the development (devenir) that was to provide the


sovereignty of the consciousness with a safer, less exposed shelter than myths, kinship systems, languages, sexuality, or desire. (Foucault 1972, 14)

In the course of this essay I intend to outline the parallel between the late twentieth-century breakdown of the development that was to provide the sovereignty of the consciousness with the safety of that form of history that wasrelated to the synthetic activity of the subject, and the late medieval loss of an alternative shelter, an alternative which Foucault describes as more exposed, but one that attains to Guattarian polyvocality, that does indeed enlarge the definition of subjectivity beyond the classical opposition between the individual subject and society (Guattari, 1).



Approaches to Medieval Individualism

In the Middle Ages both sides of human consciousnessthat which was turned within as that which was turned withoutlay dreaming or half awake beneath a common veil. The veil was woven of faith, illusion, and childish prepossession, through which the world and history were seen clad in strange hues. Man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family, or corporationonly through some general category. (Burckhardt, 81) In the effort to establish a history of subjectivity in the Middle Ages, recent critical work has focused attention on examples in which that form of subjectivity traditionally associated with the early modern epoch can be seen to pre-exist the Renaissance. This effort is typically founded on a critique of existing historical tropes, in particular the renunciation of the historical narrative that credits the Italian Renaissance with the birth of interiority and, as though the two terms are interchangeable, subjectivity. The problem I have with such an approach is that it assumes a definition of subjectivity that is inextricably tied to a philosophical discourse initiated by Descartes and upon which modernity secured its foundations. Read in this context, the notion of medieval subjectivity becomes an oxymoron. However, as the concept of the subject, and particularly its autonomy, has been reworked in the closing decades of the twentieth century (and with it concepts such as originality and


history), I believe a different engagement with the idea of pre-modern subjectivity becomes possible. In later chapters I will consider more specifically the impact of the postmodern reworking of concepts such as origin and mimesis, textuality and the subject on the attempt to define medieval subjectivity. Initially, however, I will critique some of the major approaches to this oxymoron.

Medieval Individualism: A Critique

In his study of the convergence between current radical criticism and the conservative current of medievalism which called itself historical criticism, (Aers 1992, 178) David Aers sees Burckhardts views as shaping modern thinking about individualism even among those critics who think they demolish Burckhardtian humanism. He writes: Certainly radical critics and New Historicists all reject Burckhardts celebration of the Renaissance as giving the highest development to individuality and bringing out the full, whole nature of man in an individual who, at last, recognised himself as such. They all, in their different ways subscribe to the contemporary academic truism that the individual is constituted by no more than linguistic and cultural systems, that s/he is never the free, autonomous spirit of romantic individualism, or liberal humanism or essentialist humanism. Yet whatever the challenge to Burckhardts idealist account of Renaissance subjectivity, his depiction of that against which he seeks to define the specificity of the Renaissance has been silently, unselfconsciously and uncritically assimilated. (195) Burt Kimmelman, in The Poetics of Authorship in the Later Middle Ages: The Emergence of the Modern Literary Persona, expresses a similar view. Kimmelman argues, as I do, that the two worlds, medieval and (post)modern, are not that far apart, and maybe are not separated by any sure gulf. He goes on,


Medieval scholarship today, for all its forays into deconstruction, new historical and gender criticism, is still haunted, in the words of Wallace Stevens, by that absolute foyer beyond Romance. We have yet to outlive our philological parents. I think that we still must revise to our satisfaction two canonical assumptions, one of which was built on the other. The bedrock premise is, according to Jacob Burckhardt in The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860), that medieval man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family or corporationonly through some general category. The second, put forth by Julius Schwietering in Die Demutsformel mittelhochdeutscher Dichter (1921), is that the medieval writer was self-effacing in following the precepts of Salvian, Sulpicius Severus (c. Fifth century) and others who caution authors not to commit the sin of vanitas terrestris. (Kimmelman, 7) For both Kimmelman and Aers, then, the study of medieval subjectivity is founded on the necessity of repudiating the depiction of that against which...the specificity of the Renaissance has been defined. Following a similar line, Lee Patterson attributes the marginalization of medieval studies ultimately to the pervasive and apparently ineradicable grand rcit that organizes Western cultural history, the gigantic master narrative by which modernity identifies itself with the Renaissance and rejects the Middle Ages as by definition premodern (Patterson, 92). Patterson writes: no one wants to deny that changes of a major order took place in Europe between 1300 and 1600, or to refight the hapless battle over the term Renaissance. But what needs to be challenged is the crude binarism that locates modernity (us) on one side and premodernity (them) on the other, thus condemning the Middle Ages to the role of all-purpose alternative. Among the various terms of opposition, two linked assumptions are especially prominent in contemporary literary studies: the ascription to Renaissance modernity, and the consequent denial to the premodern Middle Ages, of both a historical consciousness and a sense of individual selfhood. (93) As detailed by Foucault, historical consciousness and a sense of individual selfhood are inextricably tied, and the process of disrupting and redefining


one necessarily entails the disruption and redefinition of the other (Foucault 1972, 14). Pattersons programme assumes a linkage between the idea that a sense of individual selfhood originates in the modern era, and the master narrative that characterizes the Middle Ages as premodern. Hence, lines of ideological and philosophical identity between the late Middle Ages and the modern epoch are set in opposition to the Burckhardtian depiction of a sudden and unprecedented cultural awakening. As with Aers and Kimmelman, Pattersons primary target is the image of the Middle Ages as static monolith set in opposition to the dynamism of modernity. Although I am sympathetic to this programme, I would concede a reasoned opposition between the Middle Ages and modernity, but without the need to reduce the Middle Ages to static monolith. An understanding of the divergence between the Middle Ages and the modern epoch can illuminate the parallel divergence between modernism and postmodernism, and vice versa. For instance, the postmodern denial of the autonomy of the cogito can be set in parallel to the modern birth of the individual. And on this can be forged a critique not only of the modern notion of the individual subject, but also the modernist condemnation of the medieval polyvocal subject. The purpose of such a programme would not, therefore, have as its primary aim, the refutation of the suggestion that the Middle Ages was static and prepossessed (though this point may be of major concern), but rather, to examine the divergence between the premodern and the modern as an article of difference. Such terms as individual and subjectivity, terms tied irrevocably to modernity, must be reexamined in the light of this difference. Hence, just as postmodernism questions the modernist definition of individuality and the subject, so, I would argue, did modernism question the medieval notion of the individual and his or her place in community, most notably by attacking a perceived stasis, a distrust of change assumed to be ineradicably linked to the central role played by tradition in the Middle Ages.


Patterson and Kimmelman, like Gregory Stone in The Death of the Troubadour, are confronting what David Aers describes as Burckhardts master narrative, a master narrative constructed by early-modern humanists, inventing a Middle or Dark Ages against which, and in terms of which, they could define and legitimise their own commitments (Aers 1992, 195). Burckhardts master narrative relies on the isolation of the Middle Ages as other, and presents the emergence of the modern era in the Renaissance as a spontaneous, unheralded departure from this other. In this light, David Aers asks: What if subjectivity is more bound into a microhistory that is less linear than the master narrative determining the story told by Burckhardt, Robertson, Barker, Belsey, Dollimore, Greenblatt and Eagleton and, it must be acknowledged, suggested too by Foucault? What if, in England, there is a greater preoccupation with interiority, and with the divided self in the 1380s than in 1415-20? (197) Microhistorical inquiries, as Aers suggests, question the legitimacy of historical narratives that rely on the Middle Ages as other. Nevertheless, the overarching narrative here, whether linear or not, maintains the Burckhardtian notion that a greater preoccupation with interiority signifies a higher level of consciousness. Moreover, as Carolyn Bynum notes, the modern notion of the individual is quite distinct from the late medieval preoccupation with interiority: the twelfth-century regarded the discovery of homo interior, of seipsum, as the discovery within oneself of human nature made in the image of Godan imago Dei which is the same for all human beings (Bynum 1980, 4). The distinction between the Christian medieval homo interior and the secular modern individual is an important one, approaching the problematic heart of the matter. As Colin Morris explains, (s)elf-awareness and a serious concern with inner character was encouraged in the Church by the twelfth century,


motivated by the conviction that the believer must lay himself open to God, and to be remade by the Holy Spirit (Morris, 10). One manifestation of this non-canonical approach to divinity is the idea of contrition: Twelfth-century attitudes toward confession make it clear that remission of sin occurs not in oral confession but rather in the contrite heart. Peter Lombard had distinguished between inner and outer penance, and had concluded that only the inner penance was effective, and Abelard had insisted that, since sin existed not in an act itself but solely in the intention of the sinner, so forgiveness must be based on intent as well. Inward contrition, then, and not any outward act, was the cause of forgiveness. But these attitudes diminished the role of the Church and priest, and after (the Fourth Lateran Council of) 1215 were not wholly acceptable. (Ruud, 42) In the later Middle Ages, William of Ockham, and nominalists in general, sought a return to the contritionism of the twelfth century. Moreover, twelfthcentury contritionism has a clear precedent in Pauls Epistle to the Romansechoing the words of Deuteronomy: Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart (Deu.10.16)in which circumcision, the outward sign of the Jewish Law, is opposed to inward circumcision: For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter (Ro.2.28-29). This opposition is maintained by Augustine when he distinguishes between the old text incised in stone and the new text that abrogates it, inscribed in the living heart (Vance, 30). The lasting dominance of Augustinian theology suggests that the emphasis on an inward relation with God was persistent and extends throughout the Middle Ages1. Thus, Morris continues:

Of this dominant influence, Chenu states: It is fascinating to watch the Augustinian Hugh of Saint-Victor at work commenting on the Celestial Hierarchy: not only did he have to purge from it all taint of emanationism, but he made a desperate effort to hold on to the ontological naturalism found in the work while at the same time preserving a personal, free, and freely


From the beginning, Christianity showed itself to be an interior religion. It also contain(ed) a strong element of respect for humanity. Its central belief, that God became man for mans salvation, is itself an affirmation of human dignity which could hardly be surpassed, and its principle ethical precept is that a man must love others as he loves himself. (Morris, 10-11) In the course of examining Morris contention, Burt Kimmelman declares, Anselm, who was a philosophical realist, saw the individual human being as subsumed within the species human, whereas Abelard, in discussing salvation, saw that people differed from each other in terms of form and matter (Kimmelman, 19). The difference between the attitudes of these two medieval writers is a philosophical one. In Julian of Norwich and the Nominalist Questions, Jay Ruud links nominalism and mysticism by virtue of their shared sense of divine immediacy, which leads to the emphasis on direct personal experience that it entails (Ruud, 40). Both nominalism and mysticism disenfranchise the Church as intermediary between the individual and the Divine. The implication of these philosophical and theological positions is that here we have a clear contradiction of the notion that medieval man was prepossessedmore notable in that both question the authority of the Church to dictate to the individualand therefore unquestioning. As a first step, discrediting the generality of Burckhardts neat distinction between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by raising the example of, for instance, late medieval nominalism is, in itself, important. However, in relation to the endeavor to determine the nature of medieval subjectivity, this position works, in my opinion, counter to that endeavour. This methodology is open to the accusation that it maintains a complicity with the founding assumption that informs the Burckhardtian premise: namely,
given relationship between the soul and God as envisioned in Augustinian theology with its inward emphasis (Chenu, 25).


acceptance of the primacy of the Renaissance-inspired definition of the self as clearly definable, individual, autonomous ego. In the end, one may wonder whether this programme merely alters the temporal sequence that Burckhardt describes, in which the late medieval attitude to the self can be described simply as a proto-modern individuality. The problem with this process is evinced by Michael Camille when he writes in The Image of the Self: Unwriting Late Medieval Bodies, that (t)he tendency to see late Medieval devotional attitudes as intensely personal, expressive, and increasingly private has resulted in our overlooking important links between the sacred and the social (Camille, 77). The point he is making concerns the political context of much devotional paraphernalia, thus he describes the religious images produced by the medieval artist as visual propaganda (76-77). The question this raises, however, in my opinion, lies at the root of what I see as the most pressing concern relating to the debate over the definition of the self in both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: the apparent acceptance of the primacy of the modern conception of the individual as autonomous ego. The re-evaluation of the late Middle Ages as a proto-modern era has two fundamental effects: First, the late Middle Ages is disenfranchised from the Middle Ages as a whole, an effect that is perhaps neither positive nor negative, but which ignores the lines of continuity that stretch throughout the Middle Ages, in favour of instances of continuity between the late medieval and the modern, thereby reducing the achievements of the era from medieval achievements to anachronistic achievements of the modern era. Second, this, in turn, perpetuates an hierarchical bias that privileges the modern era, judging and qualifying the achievements of the Middle Ages in terms of modernity. Thus, Pierre Duhem repeatedly references medieval scientific developments in terms of modernist science (Nichols 1991, 25 n20), celebrating Nicholas of Cusa as one among the precursors of Copernicus (Ariew, 505), and


Campanus of Novara and Pierre dAilley as proposing a position on the place of the universe identical to the position Copernicus accepted (178). And in the same light, he writes:

When (Nicole Oresme) imagines an indefinite immobile space whose existence is real and independent from any body, when he keeps this space as the term of comparison to which one must relate all local movement in the final analysis, he formulates an opinion that was defended by the Stoicsbut also one that became Newtons and Eulers. When he identifies this space with Gods immensity, he may be submitting to the influence of Francis of Mayronnes, but surely he is preceding Clarke who later upheld the same doctrine against Leibniz, and he is preceding Spinoza who later formulated as an axiom that extension is an attribute of God . . .. (266-267, my italics) What is being emphasized here is not the diversity and wonder of medieval intellectual achievement, but exclusively whether such achievements can be read as precedents, still accepted in the modern epoch. And in a similar vein, Hans Blumenburg draws our attention to Jean Buridan for questioning the geocentricism of the universe by asking whether the daily rotation of the heaven of the fixed stars could not be explained by a corresponding axial rotation of the earth (Blumenberg, 136). Although following a line of thought deep into the past is certainly of interest, as Stephen Nichols points out, attempts to look for precocious signs of modern science (in the Middle Ages) fail to grasp the essence of the medieval project (Nichols 1991, 14). Instead, the value of medieval thinkers appears to be related to their modern workability, to their incorporation in a modern teleology. A case in point is the position, refuted by James Weisheipl, that the Aristotelian principle, omne quod movetur ab alio movetur (whatever is moved is moved by another) is disproved by the inertia principle (Weisheipl, 26-45). The intricacies of the debate are too complex to detail here, but in short, Weisheipl argues that Thomas Aquinas reworking of Aristotles theory


escapes the simplification of Averros version of the principle, which was discredited by modernism. He writes: The principle omne quod movetur ab alio movetur, understood as Aquinas understood it, is still philosophically correct today (45). Stephen Nichols response to this neatly defines my point:

even if modern dynamics do not contradict the Aristotelian theory as elaborated by Thomist scholasticism, neither do they have anything in common. Medieval physics, the natural way, differs radically from the mathematical way, to echo Newtons phrases; but we do need to bear in mind that modern conceptions represent another approach, not necessarily a change that invalidates the earlier philosophy. (Nichols 1991, 14) Medieval philosophic and scientific enquiry, then, must be read in the context of the development of medieval thought and celebrated for its alterity, not validated or ignored by virtue of its relation to modern positions2. A study of the changing conception of the individualboth her place in society and relation to institutions such as the churchwith an eye not to development so much as a focus on evolution and difference, would surely go a long way to dispelling what David Aers describes as the vulgar positivism (Aers 1992, 196) of Burckhardts narrative. However, Aers, like Kimmelman, although he sets about challenging positivism and essentialism,

It could be argued that by reading medieval subjectivity in terms of the postmodern reevaluation of the modern subject my position falls into the same trap. However, I would respond that the fundamental postmodern notion that underpins my argument is precisely that of the equal validity of differing narratives. By setting up a parallel between the Middle Ages and the postmodern epoch, or by reading the former through the latter, I do not intend to fall prey to the kind of biased representation inherent in reading the Middle Ages through the strictures of modernity. Instead I am motivated by two fundamental conditions of postmodernity: postmodernism celebrates alterity and conditions of possibility, rather than limiting itself to the terminal truths of modernism; and postmodernism challenges the very modernist positions that usurped the medieval positions, so that it is possible to witness similar, though reflected, tensions and concerns. In this way, rather than judging the Middle Ages based on another mentality, a postmodern approach to the Middle Ages aims to prevent an homogenous appraisal of the epoch; it is, in this way, intrinsically anti-hierarchical. Hence, the way is opened for the reappraisal of the Middle Ages as a significant epoch in its own right, and not just as a dark age bridging the Antique and the modern epochs.


nevertheless goes on to reassert the dominant historiographical trope. For Aers, the concept of subjectivity is so inextricably bound to the notion of interiority, (and, by necessity, opposed to collectivity) that they are taken to be synonymous. Kimmelman and Aers follow a trend mapped out by Chenu at the outset of Nature, Man and Society in the Twelfth Century, where he calls for a rigorous examination of the term Renaissance . . . that will set it free from historical dogmatism on the one hand and facile overgeneralization on the other (Chenu, 1), a call motivated by the recent proliferation of the term in relation to the Middle Ages: one hears of a Carolingian renaissance, then of a renaissance of the twelfth century, and finally that the Middle Ages were destined to play their role in a three-stage renaissance of Antiquity of which the Italian quattrocento was simply the completion. (1) However, the characterization of the Middle Ages as a series of enlightenments on the path to the modern, from Antiquity, with the Renaissance as the last in this process, though more favourable than the equation of the Middle Ages with an historical void, maintains a sense of progressivism and teleology, that is occasioned by what Nietzsche calls the prejudice of the learned that we now know better than any other age (Nietzsche 1977, 86). Indeed, the medieval notion of renaissance is that of continual change and adaptation: (Medieval men) characterized their cultural heritage as a translatio studii (transmission of learning) which, like the translatio imperii (transmission of empire) in the political sphere, pointed to the source of their spiritual capital. The modern term Middle Ages, however, set up as a foil to the Renaissance and lexically suggesting little more than a dead center, stripped such transmissions of their responsiveness to evolving conditions; indeed, it sold short the very concept of renaissance, for this term now no longer expressed the capacity for


continual renovation characteristic of western Christendom, except as comprised within some external imitation of Antiquity. (Chenu, 2) The step from difference to development, from evolution (as change) to evolution (as progress), then, must be associated firmly with the modern epoch, and the most pressing instance of this must surely be the concept of subjectivity. Rather than regarding the modern conception of subjectivity, tied inextricably to individualism, as part of an ongoing cultural evolution linked to the continually changing conditions of existence, individualized subjectivity is seen as the realization of a process of progressive development from naivet to inspiration. And as I see it, the medievalist programme, in relation to this progressivist position, is to belatedly grant the late Middle Ages some credit for this achievement. I intend to turn this programme on its head. I would ask, instead, what if the Middle Ages presided over the flowering of a subjectivity not bound to what Flix Guattari describes as the classical opposition between individual subject and society? (Guattari, 1). Rather, what if the birth of the individual, whether posited as an almost spontaneous manifestation in the Renaissance, or as part of a gradual process that spans the later Middle Ages, was, at the same time, the loss of what Guattari would call a polyvocal subjectivity? Such a study, as Aers calls for, would be approached, then, not as a means of discovering individual subjectivities (Aers 1992, 193) prior to the advent of the Renaissance, but rather, understanding the development that led to the individuation of the subject and the loss of its polyvocality.

The Traditional and the Modern


Burt Kimmelman, qualifying his stance on the similarity of the two worlds, medieval and postmodern, in my opinion, merely relocates the goal posts. He writes, no period is like another, and one particular aspect of medieval culture seems to me, after all, to be definitive. The role of authority in the lives of medieval people can hardly be overstated (Kimmelman, 6). And yet, despite this, his expressed aim is to whittle away the perceived reductivist image of the role of authority in the Middle Ages. He goes on: The clich (like all clichs, it contains a measure of truth) is that in the Middle Ages auctoritas reigned supreme as it defined the individuals sense of communitas. Kimmelmans approach to the reductivist perspective represented by Burckhardt and Schwietering is to demonstrate that over time an autonomous Ione whose subjectivity, in the words of David R. Olson (...), is tied to consciousnessof mind and the vulnerability of ones beliefsevolves from a starting point of a textual subject position determined, fundamentally, by grammar (5 n. 4, my italics). Therefore, he is prepared to concede that the earlier Middle Ages has a greater purchase on (the) assessment given by our philological parents(7). By setting in opposition the institution of auctoritas and the concept of the subject, Burt Kimmelman assumes an association between subjectivity and originality. This is, of course, not uncommon. But in the context of the late twentieth-century challenge to the notion of originality, and by extension that of the autonomy of the ego, the medieval practice of auctoritas ceases to be antipathetic to subjectivity and, instead, becomes fundamental to a proper understanding of the medieval subject. Indeed, as the auctor becomes the author, as the author is invested with the sole authority of the text s/he writes, whether this occurs in what is called the late Middle Ages or what is known as the Renaissance, the step has already been taken from medieval consciousness to modern.


The foundation of Kimmelmans assumption that the central role of authority in the early, if not later Middle Ages cannot be reconciled with our notions of subjectivity is the apparent conflict between tradition, on the one hand, and invention on the other. As Carruthers illustrates when comparing Einstein to Aquinas, the understanding that invention and originality stand in direct opposition to tradition and memory is now deeply ingrained; moreover, this inherent understanding is bound to an attitude that celebrates the former and condemns the latter. In Brian Stocks words, post-Enlightenment thought invested the terms tradition and modernity with negative and positive social and cultural values, where tradition came to be associated with resistance to change and consequently was thought to oppose progress (Nichols 1991, 9). But, as Georg Wieland asserts, the Middle Ages presided over the most intense philosophical development in the history of philosophy, through receiving, interpreting, and coming to terms with ancient authors and their works. It would be a mistake to see in this a lack of originality (Wieland, 63). He reminds us of the originality of Eriugena, Meister Eckhart and Nicholas Cusanus, and the uniqueness of Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. But, more importantly, he details three methods of approaching that broad system of interpreting the world he identifies as Christian wisdom, which contains all the elements established by tradition and by reason in understanding reality (67): He interprets the work of Hugh of St. Victor as maintaining a tolerable balance between elements from tradition and from reason; he describes Bernard of Clairvaux and the mysticism of the School of St. Victor as emphasizing the moment of tradition against that of reason; and the School of Chartres is observed to maintain a strong emphasis on the moment of reason in opposition to that of tradition (67). The diversity of these approaches to the role of tradition in medieval philosophy stands in defiance of the presumption of medieval intellectual stasis, most particularly with regard to tradition. But it is in Wielands


description of Thomas Aquinas that the nature of tradition and its position with regard to innovation (in the Middle Ages as much as today) is seen in its true light:

Thomas Aquinas develops his own philosophy on the foundations of the reception of Aristotle. His philosophy above all in metaphysics and theory of knowledge picks up Platonic motifs. His metaphysics does have a physical starting point, and here it follows the Aristotelian pattern and the interpretation by Averros. However, Aquinas discovers that in its core a being is dependent, and that it only participates in that which makes a being a being. The Platonic concept of participation is thereby rehabilitated. How shall we interpret this and other similar procedures? Thomas surpasses the scope of his historical sources and thereby creates something new in the field of philosophy, something that cannot be explained by the mere addition of two or more sources. In fact philosophical speculation and scholarship always proceed so that from a contemporary posing of a question historical material is transformed and reorganized. (81, my italics) What is described here is not only the way in which intellectual innovation emerges from historical sources in general, but the quite specific presence of a critical attitude with respect to traditions (81) that contradicts the perfunctory designation to the traditionalistic culture of the Middle Ages of a blind adherence to tradition. This more balanced assessment of the role of tradition in a traditionalistic culture repudiates the accepted correlation between tradition and immutability that stood as the bedrock claim of modernity. Indeed, tradition is not, as the modernist would claim, inert (Nichols 1991, 10), but is tied irrevocably to the present. And just as history is a representation of the past from the perspective of the present, so tradition is saddled with the same aporias that enshroud history. In fact, as Stephen Nichols explains, tradition is very much a phenomenon of the present in medieval society, and, as such, is also an agent of cultural change (10). In


such a context, tradition and modernity cease to be antithetical terms, but instead refer to two aspects of the same process of cultural movement (10). Thus, Brian Stock claims: Tradition and modernity are not mutually exclusive; they are mutually interdependent.

Traditional action is substantive. It consists of the habitual pursuit of inherited forms of conduct, which are taken to be societys norm. Traditionalistic action, by contrast, is the self-conscious affirmation of traditional norms. It is the establishment of such norms as articulated models for current and future behavior. These guidelines imperfectly reflect the past, since at a given time individuals are only in contact with a part of their cultural heritage. Indeed, one of the features of traditionalistic action is that norms are consciously selected from the fund of traditional knowledge in order to serve present needs. (Stock, 164) Traditional activity, then, is the unselfconscious and habitual repetition of the past, and is in this sense practical; whereas traditionalistic activity is a selfconscious initiative, grounded on a theoretical premise that predicates selfconscious innovation based on the recovery of an allegedly authentic tradition (165). Traditionalistic activity is, in this sense, the rational application of tradition. Modernity enters the scene as the last stage of the traditionalistic process, when the gap between the traditional and the traditionalistic becomes too great (Nichols 1991, 11). The traditionalistic nature of medieval intellectual activity is not, therefore, opposed to the new, but rather, fully cognizant of the inescapable influence of the past. Moreover, this is an approach to the notion of progress understood as the contemporary recontextualization of the past, that acknowledges the lessons of the past, with an eye both to the present situation, and the future. And this is precisely the position presented by John of Salisbury in his Metalogicon of 1159:


We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the mental strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers. Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to puny dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature. (Salisbury, 167) And this is also the position taken by postmodernism: just as, when the selfconfidence of the Renaissance was being replaced by the baroque consciousness of universal illusion and mutability (Calinescu, 16), Michel de Montaigne claims, Our opinions are grafted one upon the other. The first serves as stock to the second, the second to the third (Montaigne, 545); so Jacques Derrida understands the logic of texts as a process of textual grafting (Derrida 1982, 202). In this light, Derrida analyses Kants The Critique of Judgment:

Certain of its motifs belong to a long sequence, a powerful traditional chain stretching back to Plato or Aristotle. Woven in with them in a very strict and at first inextricable way are other, narrower sequences that would be inadmissible within a Platonic or Aristotelian politics of art. But it is not enough to sort or to measure lengths. Folded into a new system, the long sequences are displaced; their sense and function change. (Derrida 1981, 3) The process Derrida describes here is the recontextualization of traditional trains of thought into a new systeman understanding, therefore, of the necessarily interactive nature of the relationship between tradition and innovationa concept that is not only fundamental to postmodernism but represents the founding premise of medieval intellectual activity.

Medieval Individualism: A Position


Kimmelman asserts that (s)urely the earlier Middle Ages has a greater purchase on the assessments of both Burckhardt and Schwietering, but that when speaking of literature after the millennium, and especially after the eleventh century, some adjustment is in order (Kimmelman, 7). It could be argued that developments in literary theory over the past few decades, having found ideological or epistemological similarities with the late Middle Ages (Utz, 8), have led, to use Kimmelmans term, to such an adjustment, or realignment of the late medieval period in its relation to the modern era, an adjustment which enables Kimmelman to laud Chaucer for his

protomodernity (Kimmelman, 10). As I detailed above, in an effort to demonstrate the inadequacy of the Burckhardtian delineation of the Renaissance, and thus, the conception of the Middle Ages as a bridging Dark Ages, Kimmelman sets out to demonstrate that a series of definable elements considered to be characteristic of the Renaissance can be seen to develop in the later Middle Ages. Thus, he writes: As literary and Aristotelian logic became widespread, (late medieval) poets contributed to a distinction being made between history and fiction (6), a distinction that is not only a characteristic of the early modern epoch, but one that underscores the historiographical mentality of the nineteenth century. The distinction between history and fiction is one aspect of the greater dichotomy, truth and fiction, now recognized as deeply problematic. In the context of, for instance, the Derridean critique of such distinctions, a programme that has as one of its aims the description of the process by which such distinctions emerged as axiomatic is important. However, as part of a broader purpose that aims to establish some kind of modern legitimacy for the later Middle Ages, based on an apparent complicity with now broadly disputed ideologies, such a programme appears to be counterproductive, most especially in the context of the effort to define medieval subjectivity. The late Middle Ages becomes


something of a proto-modern period in a schema that in effect reasserts the Burckhardtian master narrative, but with a chronological adjustment. In effect, the founding dichotomy of this grand narrative, in which the modern conception of the autonomous ego is set in opposition to a premodern state is maintained, bound to a value-judgment that asserts the primacy of the former. As when Lee Patterson concedes that the battle over the term Renaissance is a hapless one, I would argue that exclusively focusing our attention on the established historical periodization is to miss the point. Certainly it is important to note that any historical categorization must necessarily be considered highly unstable, and any attempt to construct a reasoned characterization of such a period will be fraught with difficulties. This is all the more pertinent when considering a period spanning at least nine centuries. However, I would argue that the focus of any such historical study, particularly a revisionist study, should establish as its primary goal a greater understanding of the period in question, rather than found its claims on the inadequacy, or otherwise of established categories. In the present study, our emphasis should be upon the shifting philosophical state of medieval subjectivity; in actuality, it appears that what is being argued is the verisimilitude of our historical categorizations. Hence, without wishing to enter this debate, I will take it as established that far greater lines of similarity exist between the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance than either Petrarch or, in his wake, Burckhardt are willing to admit. But, at the same time, I will accept that the Renaissance signals a definable shift, most notably in attitude towards tradition, but also with regard to subjectivity and community, textuality and authority/authorship. In his study of the self in late medieval lyric, Gregory Stone suggests that in order to accommodate the unique narrative self, the novelistic self of romance, as opposed to the disembodied lyric I, which is nothing other than a word, a generalized subjectivity, language was forced to change


(Stone, 58). However, in an assessment that reflects David Aers critique of the New Historicists above, Kimmelman suggests that Stone is unwilling to abandon the idea that the Middle Ages consciously insists that I am they: that the individual subject is never singular, is always in some essential sense general, collective, objective (Kimmelman, 26). The insinuation is that Stone remains too firmly under the aegis of our philological parents and errs for this very reason. Kimmelman responds, I cannot help but express sympathy with him, since what he, and others, as well as myself, are striving for is the definition of medieval individualism, a term that can be regarded as an oxymoron, but this is because the language of a serviceable definition is still in the process of being forged (26). Medieval individualism remains an oxymoron only if one strives for such a definition within the parameters of a traditional philosophical discourse centered around the subject and ignores, for instance, the idea forwarded by Jrgen Habermas, that the philosophical counterdiscourse which, from the start, accompanied the philosophical discourse of modernity initiated by Kant already drew up a counterreckoning for subjectivity as the principle of modernity (Habermas, 2). More specifically, I would suggest that inherent in the concept of the individual subject in the Middle Ages was a belief and understanding of its limits and the aporias that surround it, a belief that was generally revoked with the advent of the modern era, and has only now resurfaced as axiomatic.

Literary Nominalism
One of the major sites in which the oxymoron medieval individualism is being investigated, a working paradigm in the study of medieval literature which has found an increasing number of practitioners (Utz, i), is what Richard Utz prefers to term literary nominalism (3). The reevaluation of nominalism as an essential movement of thought in the late Middle Ages is,


according to Utz, intrinsic to a process in which the fourteenth century is revealed as more prolific than the thirteenth in those idees-forces that were to determine the course of European intellectual life (6). There are two basic and related effects of this working paradigm aimed at breaking down the idealist construct (4) associated with the Burckhardtian master narrative: First, the proposition that the rise of nominalism and its final victory over realist positions are among the decisive factors underlying the formation of Modern Europe since the later Middle Ages (2), a proposition similar, as I see it, to that of Kimmelman. Thus, Utz criticizes Ullrich Langers investigation of literary nominalism on the grounds that Langer subscribes to the myth of the (Italian) Renaissance as a period during which the notion of the individual was born (7 n19). And second, as a consequence of this, in a complicated symbiosis, the rise of nominalism in critical theory over the last few decades has led to a reappraisal of late medieval philosophical developments, and at the same time, late medieval nominalism is used, in the words of Richard Utz, as historical reassertion for prevalent modern/postmodern perceptions of literary critics (10). Hence, Stephen Knight proposed in 1965 that since (a)part from Christian theologians, we are all nominalists today (1) then Chaucer can be seen as a particularly modern, because nominalist writer (8 n21). This schema, based on a philosophical comparative between the late Middle Ages and today, although it disrupts the neat chronology posited by Burckhardt, as well as repudiating the characterization of the Middle Ages as static monolith, seems to me (again) to champion (in this case) late-medieval nominalism merely as a neat example in which the medieval era can be seen as emphatically individualist. The link between subjectivity and individualism is taken for granted; and the further link between this and modernity forms the crux of debate. I will expand on this in chapter three.


For Utz, The Name of the Rose stands as a monument to the reappropriation of the late Middle Ages: twentieth-century writers have sought to utilize medieval nominalism as a recourse for their poetic theory and practice.... The publication of Umberto Ecos The Name of the Rose can be seen as the single most significant, recent event both indicating and promoting the general and widespread paradigmatic shift toward nominalism inside and outside of the academy. In Ecos book, Sherlock Holmesian deductive reasoningi.e., scienceas well as poststructuralist semiotics are shown only to function in a contingent, nominalist world and displayed by a William of Baskerville modeled after William of Ockham. (9) There can be little doubt that Umberto Eco saw in his scholarly Franciscan, an empiricist struggling with the principle of Universals and propounding, though skeptically, a nominalist philosophy, a speculum of Ecos contemporary nominalists. There can be little doubt, also, that such a choice was influenced by the familiarity with which the late twentieth-century reader would respond to William. But, where for Kimmelman and Knight, for instance, this similarity leads to the adjustment of the late Middle Ages in relation to the modern epoch, in my opinion, The Name of the Rose explicitly represents this parallel in order to present the parallel tensions and aporias faced by the late Middle Ages and the late twentieth century. These parallels can certainly inform the study of the late Middle Ages, but if anything, they illustrate that the postmodern epoch may in certain areas be returning to a sensibility that in some respects is reminiscent of a medieval sensibility abandoned in the modernist era. My major concern, as I have stated, with the theses of literary nominalists such as Richard Utz is that such a schema utilizes fourteenthcentury nominalism as an example in which the late Middle Ages can be characterized as individualist and, hence, proto-modern. Tied to this concern, moreover, is a question of the motive behind the apparent single-minded


championing of Ockhams notion of the world as composed exclusively of individuals, and the apparent neglect of the primary ramification of this worldview: as the term nominalism denotes, the site of universals is language. The actually-existing world, in (Ockhams) view, is composed of individuals, but these are not the primary concern of the scientist or philosopher. The philosophers object is the universal, and universality is found only in terms, either conceived in the mind or spoken or written. Terms are the elements of propositions, so that Ockham can conclude that propositions are the object of philosophy. Every science, Ockham writes, whether real or rational, is concerned only with propositions as with objects known, for only propositions are known. This does not mean that science or philosophy in no way concerns the individual, or that the individual is unknown, but that scientific knowledge is directed primarily to universal terms and propositions. It treats of the individual insofar as the terms or propositions stand for and signify them. Thus, philosophy primarily and directly is a study not of the actually existing world, but of mental and verbal assertions. Centuries before the contemporary linguistic movement in philosophy, Ockham, the Oxonian, directed the study of philosophy to language. (Maurer, 180-1) The historical legacy of Ockham appears to be torn between representing the culmination of medieval thought and signaling the nascent rise of modernity. The influence of Ockhams conception of reality or being as radically individual (184) on modernity cannot be denied, nor would it be prudent to dispute the idea that Ockhams philosophy led directly to the Renaissance. Indeed, Leibniz described nominalism as the movement most in harmony with the spirit of modern philosophy (184). Nevertheless, Ockhamist nominalism is founded upon not one, but two pillars: The repudiation of the notion of universal nature or essence, and hence, affirmation of the notion that reality is radically individual; and the necessarily general or conventional or universal nature of language. Moreover, it is self-evident that Ockhamist nominalism was a culmination of centuries of medieval philosophical and theological debate that stretches through Duns Scotus and Peter Abelard to


Boethius, and was based upon a theoretical understanding of language that is intrinsic to the Middle Ages.

Medieval Individualism: Desideratum

The impasse that both Kimmelman and the literary nominalists face here, as well as, to a certain extent, both Aers and Patterson, is their unquestioning acceptance of the philosophy of consciousness, the aporias which both Foucault in The Order of Things and Habermas in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity acutely diagnose. They appear unwilling to reconcile the dichotomy of the sense of self and the sense of collectivity and community. The basic desideratum in the question of the nature of medieval subjectivity is the reconciliation of these two profound aspects of the human condition as complementary aspects of the medieval conception of the individual subject. Hence, we would no longer attempt to define the medieval self within the parameters of a representation of subjectivity which has for many gone bankrupt, but aim for an alternative representation informed by the medieval practice of intertextuality. In this way, it would be possible to speak not of the development of the individual, but of the loss of its polyvocality.



Cyclicity and Mimesis

The Polyvocal Subject

A critic who would condemn the art of Shakespeare or of Rembrandt or even the drawings of the ice age primitives as being of bad taste because they do not conform to the aesthetic standards established by classical Greek or Roman theory would not be taken seriously by anybody. (Auerbach, 183) It is our historical perspective, Erich Auerbach argues, that allows us to adapt and modify aesthetic standards in line with the differing aims and purposes of different epochs, what he describes as this largeness of our aesthetic horizon (183). His point is astute: aesthetic historicism is based upon the conviction that every civilization and every period has its own possibilities of aesthetic perfection (183) which cannot be judged by absolute rules of beauty and ugliness (184). The reductivist tendency towards absolute values and the consequent hierarchism implicit in such value judgements is not, of course, limited to aesthetic standards. One could just as pertinently critique an absolutist approach to social, legal or political formulations. In this vein, Ruth Karras argues that as a consequence of the exclusivity of the modern definition of sexuality1, tied as it is to identity, alternative positions outside the scope of that definition cease to exist.

Karras is confronting positions such as that proposed by David Halperin, who argues that the history of sexuality does not extend to the ancient world, and is thus a recent history: For


(A)lthough this was not the intention, the approach may lead to the dismissal of everything before the nineteenth century as irrelevant to the study of sexuality because it does not share in nineteenth-century concepts of sexuality. Such logic may also lead to the idea that there is a single, modern concept of sexuality, to which premodern concepts can be opposed and thus dismissed as not sexuality. (Karras, 159) Similarly, it is my contention that we should be wary of accepting a critical approach that sets up an unfavourable value-judgement on medieval subjectivity based upon the philosophical perspective of the modern era. It is necessary, with Bachelard, to understand that the truth of the world, or what is true in the world, is not an absolute but varies in time and place (During, 29). The difficulty inherent in an absolutist approach to the study of medieval subjectivity, as I briefly outlined in the previous chapter, rests primarily on the position that the very concept individuality, as we understand it, is a modern designation, and has now become almost indivisible from subjectivity. Consequently, the favoured critical approach to the establishment of a workable definition of pre-modern subjectivity involves positioning the late Middle Ages at the beginning of a developmental process leading to the articulation of modern subjectivity, with its prioritization of interiority and individualism. The gradual and evolutionary nature of such concepts is, after Colin Morris The Discovery of the Individual: 1050-1200, beyond dispute. It is also certain that the rise in prominence of nominalism in the late Middle Ages is part of the gradual shift towards an individualist point of view that was to culminate in the early modern epoch. But, despite this, I would ask with Aaron Gurevich, is it not time to move away from teleologism of this kind of historical research and, while still singling out

those inhabitants of the ancient world about whom it is possible to generalize, sexuality did not hold the key to the secrets of the human personality (Halperin , 417).


Abelards individuality and unique personality . . . from among collective attitudes, nevertheless return them to the spiritual universe to which they belonged? (Gurevich, 10). Gurevich is referring to the kind of teleological reading of the Middle Ages I detailed in Chapter Two, in which the achievements of the time are either lauded as precursors of modernity or denounced as nave for failing to anticipate modern sensibilities and priorities. By refusing the teleological perspective, however, one must conclude that it would be inappropriate to read the autonomous individual into, for instance, religious life in the twelfth century (Bynum 1982, 88-90) because that idea is a contemporary one and alien to the Middle Ages (Gurevich, 8). And it is here, between these two camps, that I would set up my argument. To seek signs of modern individualism in the Middle Ages, is to promote individualism to a position of importance that, it seems to me, it doesnt deserve. But, more importantly, it would be necessary to ignore the intrinsic importance of belonging and community that form the backdrop of any signs of precocious individualism in the Middle Ages. Examples such as The Wanderer, Chaucers rendering of the Narcissus myth, or Thomas Hoccleves self-reflexive Complaint, portray the individual in isolation as a figure of despair; and key texts, such as The Clerks Tale and The Franklins Tale, urge submission of the individual to a wider orderreligious in (the former), ethical and social in (the latter) (Van Dyke, 48). It is, therefore, necessary to distinguish between the subject and the individual. Where the individual can be defined in isolation, at least as a material entity, subjectivity describes that moment of interaction and negotiation between the individual and society. The subject is not automatically considered the author of actions, autonomous and selfcontained, but rather part of a matrix of actions; the subject is a nexus of relations. The history of modernity describes an epoch in which the subject is progressively individuated. And contemporary history, in which the individual


is even more radically isolated2, is increasingly dominated by rising demands for subjective singularity (Guattari, 3). Jack Crittenden, following the lead of Charles Taylor, argues that the rationalist approach of Descartes, more than any other philosopher (Crittenden, 17), is responsible for this trend3. At the same time, however, and in contrast to the escalating alienation of individuals in society, the late twentieth century has seen the notion of the subject comprehensively reinterpreted4. For Guattari, the modern, rationalist definition of subjectivity is flawed (1). For instance, taking the lead of Mikhal Bakhtin, he describes subjectivity as plural and polyphonic (1). And he goes on: Whether one considers contemporary history, machinic semiotic productions, the ethology of infancy, or social and mental ecology, we witness the same questioning of subjective individuation, which certainly survives, but is wrought by collective assemblages of enunciation. (8) Understood in this way, the independent voice of the Cartesian subject is an illusion. Wrought by collective assemblages of enunciation, subjectivity must be understood, rather, as polyvocal (99). Guattaris aim, in Chaosmosis, is to provide an alternative definition of subjectivity, from the voice of interior discourse and from selfpresencethe Cartesian, rationalist cogito . . . on paths leading to radically mutant forms of subjectivity, what he describes as a subjectivity of

David Riesman, in his book The Lonely Crowd (Riesman) describes the dialectical nature of individualism and the alienation of modern centralized mass society. 3 Crittenden writes: In place of hierarchic ontology Descartes forcefully argued for intrapsychic ontology. What we are is what we think . . . . (Crittenden, 17) 4 Fred Dallmayr describes the decline or twilight of subjectivity, which has served as cornerstone of modern philosophy since the Renaissance (Dallmayr, ix), which for Guattari requires the redefinition of subjectivity in the understanding that a certain universal representation of subjectivity incarnated by capitalist colonialism in both East and West, has gone bankrupt (Guattari, 3). And, Jrgen Habermas, in An Alternative Way out of the Philosophy of the Subject: Communicative versus Subject-Centred Reason, writes: The paradigm of the philosophy of consciousness is exhausted (Habermas, 3).


the outside (89). And he characterizes his vision of post-capitalist subjectivity as polysemic, animistic, transindividual subjectivity (101). In this sense, the subject-object bifurcation is replaced with intersubjectivity, and the subject ceases to be defined against the object, but in relation to the intersubjective field. In a Deleuzian sense, we are here opposing the classical tree, which supports only the binary logic of dichotomy (Deleuze, 28), to that of the rhizome, in which any point . . . can be connected to anything other, and must be (29). Strictly speaking, then, the denomination subject should perhaps be replaced by a new term consistent with the multiplicity of the rhizome, such as assemblage. Nevertheless, a Guattarian polyvocal subject, a subject understood as rhizome rather than root-tree, would not require an antonym (object) for definition, but would be understood as intersubjective: that is, defined in relation, not isolation. Puppet strings, as a rhizome or multiplicity, are tied not to the supposed will of an artist or puppeteer but to a multiplicity of nerve fibers, which form another puppet in other dimensions connected to the first: Call the strings or rods that move the puppet the weave. It might be objected that its multiplicity resides in the person of the actor, who projects it into the text. Granted; but the actors nerve fibers in turn form a weave. And they fall through the gray matter, the grid, into the undifferentiated . . . . The interplay approximates the pure activity of weavers attributed in myth to the Fates or Norns.5 (30-1) In the context of this schema, it would seem unnecessary to map the modern individual onto the medieval polyvocal subject (or assemblage) unless one seeks exclusively to represent the development of that modern idea. Guattari describes the modern evolution towards an accentuation of the individuation of subjectivity as a loss of its polyvocality (99), and he clearly recognises the polyvocal subject in the medieval era. And he cautions,

Deleuze is here quoting Ernst Jnger. (1974) Approches; drogues et ivresse, Paris: Table Ronde, p.304, sec. 218.


This sectorisation of modes of valorisation is now so deeply rooted in the cognitive apprehension of our era that it is difficult for us to trace its economy when we try to decode past societies . . . . Corporatist subjectivity with its pious implications for master artisans of the Middle Ages who built the cathedrals remains obscure to us. We cannot restrain ourselves from aesthetising a rupestral art which, to all appearances, had an essentially technological and cultural significance. Thus any reading of the past is inevitably overcoded by our references to the present. (99) This difficulty becomes a frustration for the medievalist intent on reading the Middle Ages in terms of modern sensibilities6. But, more importantly, at a time when key intellectuals are calling for a move away from individualized subjectivities it seems counterproductive to revise our understanding of medieval subjectivity in order for it to better resemble the modern individuated subject. Moreover, in this context, I believe its time to thoroughly revise the notion that the individuation of the subject, (what Burckhardt calls the development of the individual), whether it occurred in the Renaissance or the twelfth century, represents an advancement on previous states of being. In fact, much late twentieth-century philosophical discourse suggests that the opposite is true. The primary distinction between modern and medieval subjectivity is that where the former is comprehended in isolation, the latter cannot be apprehended in isolation from the intersubjective web, and is, moreover, fully conscious of the intersubjective state of being. Thus, the growing individuation of the saints in the closing centuries of the Middle Ages, and the

Walter Ullmann writes: I can only testify to my own annoyancethough I feel I am not alone in experiencing this reactionwhen I come across a work of art or of literature or of documentation which so successfully hides its author . . . . Who conceived Ely Cathedral? Who was the architect of Strasbourg Cathedral? Who were the builders of the dozens of magnificent monuments? To be told, again, that this work comes from the school of St. Albans, and so on, is really no substitute for an identification of the individual who composed and executed or illuminated this or that manuscript. (Ullmann, 32-3).


consequent focus on the life of the individual saint, can be inscribed in a teleological schema as one step on the way to the birth of the individual; but the consistent focus on the life of the saint as imitation (imitatio Christi) reflects the gulf between the notion of subject as author of action and subject as imitator of authority. The individual is, in this case, understood not as autonomous, but as assemblage. Given the postmodern denial of the autonomy of the subject, the understanding of subject as imitation ties into theories of mimesis in which the original comes into existence simultaneously with its copyin which the original is inscribed in a system of iteration. The modern dream of the absolute autonomy of the subject, which leads to madness, is seen to be as illusory as the related modern dream of the autonomy of the signifier, which leads to meaninglessness. Medieval subjectivity is, I contend, fully cognizant of the impossibility of autonomy. In this case, it would seem inappropriate to belittle the medieval polyvocal subject simply because it is only being read within the context of the narrative of the development of the individual, and not in the context of the growing trend away from the individuated subject.

The Augustinian Cogito

The development of individualism can be seen to stretch back as far as Augustine. Indeed, it could be argued that the Augustinian philosophy of history detailed in The City of God and the Confessions, which, seemingly for the first time, broke with the fatalism of history as perpetual recurrence, inaugurated a sense of progress in history, tied to the redemption, that led directly to modernity (Bourke, 220-221). Moreover, recent work by postmodern Augustinian theologians, most notably Jean-Luc Marion, Rowan Williams and John Milbank, not to mention Jacques Derrida in his critique of


Augustine, assume a direct line between the Augustinian cogito and the Cartesian cogito.

For postmodern theologians, the Augustinian self taken as secure intellectual substance is the root of all which is to be overcome in modernity. Constituted in relation to the divine as a mirror of the trinitarian divine self-relation, and possessing in that mirrored selfrelation at once both a self-identity and a relation to the divine, the self is established in a pure thinking above and over the historical, the communal and the practical. Such an Augustinian self who would found a normative knowledge of the logic of reality in the Cartesian way must be read out of existence, (and out of Augustine), in order to construct a postmodern Christianity. (Hankey, 16)

Although the postmodern theologians seek ultimately to ground a new relevance for Christianity on Augustine, a relevance proffered by the antirationalism of postmodernityThe end of modernity . . . means the end of a single system of truth based on universal reason, which tells us what reality is like . . . . (T)heology . . . no longer has to measure up to accepted secular standards of scientific truth or normative rationality (Milbank 1991, 22526)the assumption they work from is the notion of an Augustinian archetype for the Cartesian cogito. Stephen Menn draws a bridge between Cartesian modernity and the pre-modern epoch by tracing a line of continuity between Augustine and Descartes, whose doctrines of faith are the same; and naturally so, since Descartes doctrine of faith is a consequence of his adoption of the Augustinian doctrine of the free exercise of will in judgment (Menn 1998, 333). And some truths are to be accepted on faith. Ultimately, for both Augustine and Descartes, the aim is to press on toward knowledge (334). Thus, Rowan Williams states


Augustines concern with the self-relatedness of the divine essence (on the analogy of the self-perception and self-assent of the human subject) is seen as one of the primary sources of that pervasive Western European obsession with the individuals sense of him- or herself which has led, in the wake of Kant, to the fundamental illusion of modernity, the notion that the private self is the arbiter and source of value in the world. Augustine stands accused of collaborating in the construction of the modern consciousness that has wrought such havoc . . . . (Williams, 317)

Moreover, drawing a line from Plotinus to Descartes, via Augustine, Wayne Hankey describes Augustines quest for sapientia (wisdom) as an essentially inward, and hence, rationalist activity: Augustine reports that he looked within himself and saw with the eye of his soul the immutable light above his mind (Hankey, 11). Thus, reflecting Descartes formulation, cogito ergo sum, Augustine writes: When the mind contemplates the highest wisdomwhich is not the soul for it is immutableit also contemplates its mutable self, and somehow becomes aware of itself (de Libero Arbitrio 3.25.76.). And, furthermore, Hankey points out that Augustine parts company with Plotinus by refusing the ascent from individual to world soul because he was interested in his own soul (Hankey, 12). Indeed, it is in the Augustinian (onto-)theological tradition that Derrida sources the Logocentrism which is, in his schema, the foundation of western culture, and which engendered the modern self. And in Circumfession, Derrida outlines the steps intrinsic to a postmodern treatment of Augustine.

For the sake of a postmodern Christian theology it is necessary to deconstruct in Augustine: (1) the union of substance and subjectivity, (2) intellectual individualism independent of communitarian praxis, (3) selfpresence as rational certainty simultaneously established against and constituting objectivity, (4) the unity of the normative and the rational which holds together knowledge and love, and, (5) the union of selfrelation and the relation to God as other. (17)


Similarly, Jean-Luc Marion retraces the Cartesian cogito back to Augustine, although he points to Descartes own recognition that Augustine uses the cogito as an agency for the knowledge of God (Marion, 384 n22). Such a spiritual view leads to the suggestion of a complexity to the Augustinian cogito that stretches beyond rationalism. This complexity directs John Milbank to propose that for Augustine to know oneself genuinely means to know oneself as loving, from which he concludes, not interiority but radical exteriorization is implied. Thus he goes on: Augustines use of the vocabulary of inwardness is not a deepening of Platonic interiority, but something much more like its subversion (Milbank 1997, 464-65). The correlation drawn here between Descartes and Augustine certainly contradicts the delineation of the Middle Ages as all-purpose other to modernity, and would, further, suggest that the foundation of the Middle Ages coincides with the foundation of a philosophy of history and a definition of the cogito that, though distinct, leads directly to the modern epoch. This contradicts the common position, such as that proposed by Burt Kimmelman, that although lines of correlation can be established between the modern era and the late Middle Ages, the earlier Middle Ages retains all the characteristics of the dark ages. Moreover, in the course of proposing that the richest sources for a more rounded and balanced picture of the development and transformation of the individual in medieval Europe survive in the Scandinavian North (Gurevich, 16), Aaron Gurevich refers to Alfons Dopschs The Economic Spirit and Individualism in the Early Middle Ages. In it Dopsch objects to the characterization of, particularly, the early Middle Ages as dominated intellectually by the typical, and goes on to claim that the beginning of the Middle Ages was marked by individualism (16). Farming patterns in Germany are characterized by their atomization, and opposed to the communalism of the Romans. Thus, Tacitus writes: they will not even have their houses adjoin one another. They dwell apart, dotted about


here and there, wherever a spring, plain, or grove takes their fancy (17). Furthermore, the individualism of the early medieval Germanic races is opposed to the later Middle Ages:

Restrictions laid down upon manifestations of all that was individual in economic life became the order of the day in the latter part of the Middle Ages (the emergence of corporations, economic regulation and monopolization of control over commerceZunftzwang or guild coercion obliging all craftsmen of a particular trade to join a guild and bide by its charter and the wide-ranging limitation of peasants rights and so on) but these had been missing at the beginning of the period. (17) What begins to emerge here is a far more intricate history of the individual in the Middle Ages, a history that reveals a more complex interplay between individualism and communitarianism. Most importantly, the late medieval corporate and communitarian mentality, that is so often characterized in terms of lack, is seen as a development and innovation consistent with the changing tides of social, political and economic concerns. In the context of Dopschs analysis, the grand narrative that credits the Renaissance with the birth of the individual, a development that is linked to a progressivist historiography, is supplanted by a series of alternating positions in which the prioritization of the individual alternately advances and recedes. In such an account, the atomization of western society in the late twentieth, early twenty-first centuries, concomitant with the lionisation of economic rationalism, is inscribed in a larger history that is not simply that of neat and progressive individuation. And similarly, signs of precocious individuality in the twelfth century, for instance, must be read as reactionary, a counterdiscourse that recalls as much the early Middle Ages that predate it as the early modern that it predates. Hence, in line with Milbank, above, and Rowan Williams intent to reduce, in Augustine, substance to relation (and thus the individual to the


interpersonal) (Hankey, 32), I would suggest that Augustines designation of self-identity is, nonetheless, a fundamentally medieval intellectual notion of interpersonal and communicative action. I intend to qualify this point later by suggesting that the free exercise of will in judgment is based, in the Middle Ages, upon memoria and auctoritas, a position that I will use to propose a model for the understanding of medieval subjectivity in terms of intertextuality (polyvocal subjectivity) not pure reason or rationalism (individual

subjectivity). Hence, where the Enlightenment encouraged free-thinking, reasoning subjects to challenge prescribed dogma and turn inward in the search for grounding authority (Worthington, 2) in the name of rationalism, the medieval understanding of authority is categorically extrinsic. Indeed, given the ethical nature of memoria, one could argue that the (intertextual) polyvocality of medieval subjectivity, formed through the absorption and recontextualization of authoritative discourse, though based upon the search for wisdom, is not founded upon reason at all, but on praxis. As such, the process toward Augustinian sapientia is a continuous one in which subjectivity is derived experientially, and is therefore extrinsic to the individual in question. If the link between the Augustinian cogito and the Cartesian cogito is perhaps strained, that between Cartesian rationalism and twelfth-century rationalism is more clear. And it is on this basis that most of the claims for late medieval individualism rest. Whether as a return to the spirit of Augustinianism, or as an essentially medieval development, it is hard to ignore such radical shifts as the discovery of nature in the twelfth century (Chenu, 4), and its cementing, inspired by the renewed interest in Aristotle in the thirteenth (32). However, the evolution of philosophical and intellectual practice does not proceed with a momentum that is uniform, but rather in leaps and bounds, and periods of consolidation and reappraisal, ad nauseam. The most pressing concern here is what I see as the disproportionate prioritization


of such bursts of intellectual activity. What is often ignored are the intrinsic strains of thought through which new ideas are filtered, and, by virtue of this, their fundamental relation to and dependence on, in this case, the medieval intellectual tradition as a whole. As Thomas Aquinas asserts in Lectio One of his Commentary on Aristotles De Anima: In studying any class of things, it is first of all necessary . . . to consider separately what is common to the class as a whole, and afterwards what is proper to particular members of the class (Foster, 44). And more closely to my point, Aristotle teaches that knowledge of the essence (of a thing) help(s) one to understand the causes of the accidents . . . but, conversely, accidental qualities contribute much to knowing what a thing essentially is (43). Thus, sudden shifts in intellectual and philosophical positions, such as the twelfth-century renaissance, must be understood both in their divergence from the essence of the medieval period, and for the essential context out of which they emerged. The discovery of nature and the consequent theme of man as microcosm in the twelfth century is a case in point. That these developments can be viewed as accidents in the context of medieval philosophical history is supported by the vigorous opposition they occasioned, such as Abbot William of Saint-Thierrys famous complaint to St. Bernard about William of Conches:

This innovator with his new philosophy, William of Saint-Thierry complained, sees the first man as coming not from God but from nature, from spirits and stars. As to the creation of woman from the rib of Adam, the Abbot continued, William holds the authority of sacred history in contempt . . . ; by interpreting that history from the point of view of physical science, he arrogantly prefers the ideas he invents to the truth the history contains, and in so doing he makes light of a great mystery. (Chenu, 16)


William of Conches naturalistic appraisal of Gods creation is an accident in the context of the history of medieval symbolic exegesis; but it is quite essential in view of the continued mutability of medieval intellectual activity. In a progressivist sense of history, a fundamental step is taken in the twelfth century away from mythical fancy, towards rationalism as we know it today, a step that would lead inexorably to modernity and the enlightenment. Thus, William of Conches, in Philosophia mundi, defends his naturalism as sweat(ing) on after the truth (12 n22). And of his detractors he protests:

Ignorant themselves of the forces of nature and wanting to have company in their ignorance, they dont want people to look into anything; they want us to believe like peasants and not to ask the reason behind things . . . . But we say that the reason behind everything should be sought out . . . . (11) In a similar light, Andrew of Saint-Victor affirmed that in expounding Scripture, when the event described admits of no natural explanation, then and then only should we have recourse to miracles (17, n35). Here, rationalism is afforded precedence over miracles and mythical fancy, a shift that, there can be little doubt, leads directly to the modern era, in which rationalism is privileged over all else. However, the narrative in which the twelfth century represents a signpost in the continuous progression from nave fancy to Reason, is simplistic for three reasons: 1. at its foundation rests the conviction that we are more right than them; 2. this narrative relies on a teleological approach which suggests that the twelfth century represents an accident that is outside our definition of the Middle Ages, and so must be understood only as preempting the modern era; 3. in order for this narrative to function, rationalism must be viewed as being in direct opposition to religion and myth rather than as yet another metaphysical position. Andrew of Saint-Victors approach, although


significant in itself, is, of course, a venerable Augustinian principle (17). Once again it can be argued that the impetus behind an apparently radical shift in the intellectual landscape of the late Middle Ages stretches back to the very inception of the Middle Ages, and to the figure of Augustine, whose influence spanned the entire medieval epoch. Moreover, John Milbanks assertion that the programme of modern secular reason was itself made in terms of metaphysics, and of religion (Milbank 1990, 260) suggests that rationalism only differs from myth in what it prioritizes. If the mainspring of Western rationalism is its ambition to terminate mans bondage to nature and to primitive superstition (Foucault, 1970 1994, 214), then it must be acknowledged that rationalism is defined in terms of what it

opposesmythical fancy. Seen as merely an alternative metaphysics, rationalism comes to reflect the very metaphysical systems it intends discrediting. Thus, Jean-Franois Lyotard in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, proposes that, in fact, the authority of science rests on, and is legitimated by myths or metanarratives (Lyotard). And, like Milbank, Adorno claims that rationalism is no different than myth: The doctrine of the equivalence of action and reaction maintains the power of repetition over life long after men had renounced the illusory hope to identify themselves through repetition with the repeated reality and thus to escape its dominion. The more remote the distance into which magical illusion recedes, the more relentlessly repetition (restyled as lawfulness) chains man to that natural cycle whose reification into a law of nature was supposed to secure his emancipation. (Adorno, 12) So mythology points toward enlightenment, just as enlightenment tends to lapse into mythology (Dallmayr, xvi). For Adorno, the cyclicity of rationalism reflects the cyclicity of myth7, and so it is of particular interest to

In combating superstition, scientific reason tries to extricate itself from blind determinism; however, by focusing attention on causal mechanisms or permanent laws of nature, science still pays tribute to cyclical recurrence or the eternal return of the present (Dallmayr, 215).


note that concomitant with the nascent rise of rationalism in the late middle Ages is a return to the anthropomorphic portrayal of nature, and along with it, the theme of cyclical repetition. Acceptance of the continuity between rationalism and, for instance, symbolic exegesis and mythical fancy, not only leads to a better understanding of the foundations on which modernity and the individuation of the subject germinated, but allows for a more critical and disinterested appraisal of the claims of modernity. With such an analysis, I hope to foreground the conditions under which the polyvocality of the medieval subject could be sustained, and in doing so, I would suggest that the individuation of the subject, essential as it is to the impetus of western rationalism, is bound to the claims of rationalism, claims that, in my opinion, are emerging now as misleading.

Cyclicity in Ricardian Poetry

In what is a common portrayal, this noble goddesse Nature (Parl. of Foules, 303)8 presides over the cyclical life of birds in Chaucers Parlement of Foules. She is described as a queene / That, as of lyght the somer sonne shene / Passeth the strerre, right so over mesure / She fayrer was than any creature (298-301). Of braunches were here halles and here boures Iwrought after here cast and here mesure; Ne there nas foul that cometh of engendrure That they ne were prest in here presence To take hire dom and yeve hire audyence. (304-8)


Moreover, although this anthropomorphic portrayal of Nature follows closely a description of Venuss temple, surrounded as it is by gods ranging from Plesaunce, Beute and Youthe to Priapus, the god of gardens and fertility (388), Nature is not presented as an associate of the classical pantheon, but the vicaire of the almyghty Lord (379). The dreamer in Chaucers poem reaches the parliament of birds, the yearly gathering in which Nature partners each bird with a mate, with its implication of the cyclical iterability of nature, through contemplation of the Galaxye (56). Thus, the harmony of the Universe is matched by the harmony of the cyclical quality of nature on earth, and more particularly, the cycle of mating birds, so that Chaucer frames his poem with the harmony of music: the song of the birds at the close of the poem is the earthly counterpart of the music of the spheres that Scipio heard in his dream (Benson, 384) at the beginning of the poem. Despite the grandeur and mythic sweep of such themes of cyclical nature, for Chaucer the private and personal relationships and feelings of his characters take precedence over their public acts (Brewer, 165)

And if I hadde ytaken for to write The armes of this ilke worthi man, Than wolde ich of his batailles endite; But for that I to writen first bigan Of his love, . . . (Troilus v. 1765-9) In opposition to the epic tradition, the chief characters of Ricardian narrative . . . achieve little of public consequence. Their achievements are of the private, even questionable, kind which will not concern the historian (Burrow 1992, 100). This quotidian approach is certainly concerned with subjectivity, but it is an emphatically heterogeneous subjectivity and not to be confused with the

All references to Chaucer taken from (Benson, 1988).


inwardness of modern subjective singularity. For the Ricardian poet, identity is bound to the inescapable cyclicity of nature; identity is not autonomous but dependent on continual repetition. Where epic maintains a progressivist schema, founded on a narrative that moves forward to a triumphant or tragic close in which the achievements of the hero are celebrated (100) Ricardian poetry maintains a structural circularity in which the narrative will often return to the starting point. In the Book of the Duchess, the Parliament of Fowls, Pearl and Piers Plowman, the dreamer wakes up. Octavian, in the Book of the Duchess, returns to his castle; Gawain returns to Camelot; Gowers Amans returns home; and the Canterbury pilgrims would have returned to Southwark. Whatever achievement there may be seems a matter, not of changing the world by founding kingdoms or conquering enemies (It stant noght in my sufficance / So grete thinges to compasse), but of coming to terms with everyday realities and better understanding of ones own nature and that of the world around one. (101) In this way, the self-awareness which the hero achieves at the end of Sir Gawain does not seem secure for the future. It is not, and could hardly be, a permanent possession (101). The first line of the poem is repeated in the end, creating a circularity which matches the endlessness of the pentangle (line 630) which is the heraldic and mystical symbol of Gawains virtue (Burrow 1977, 77), a device also used by the Gawain-poet in Pearl, in which the formal circularity of the final return to the beginning of the poem, corresponds to the endless round (line 738) of the pearl (62).

The idea of moral perfection is symbolically suggested in both cases. Like Gawain, too, Pearl has 101 stanzas, suggesting perhaps the completion of one cycle and the beginning of another. (62)


This structural circularity is reflected in the content of the text, most notably when Gawain adopts the green girdle as a constant reminder of his faut:

Bot your girdel, quoth Gawain, God you foryelde! That will I welde with good wille, not for the winne gold, Ne the seint, ne the silk, ne the side pendauntes, For wele ne for worship, ne for the wlonk werkes, Bot in singne of my surfet I shall see hit ofte, When I ride in renown remorde to myselven The faut and the faintise of the flesh crabbed, How tender hit is to entise teches of filthe; And thus, when pride shall me prick for prowess of armes, The loke to this luf-lace shall lethe my hert. . . . (Gawain, 2429-38)

The implication of this conjunction of structural and thematic cyclicity is that the knights identity can only be preserved by the continual repetition, either in fact or through meditative recollection, of adventures such as that of the Green Chapel (Burrow 1977, 101). As Burrow explains, this unheroic sense of the cyclic and repetitious character of human experience is associated with the cycle of the seasons of the year (Burrow 1977, 101). Gawains adventure lasts exactly one year, thus the finality of an achievement presumed in epic, is subjugated to the fatalism of the cycle, indicative of the limits of human endeavour (101). This opposition reflects the more fundamental opposition between a progressivist and a cyclical world-view, but I would suggest that a link can be established between the understanding of human existence as cyclical, the subsumption of identity (meaning) in repetition, and the understanding that meaning is contingent on repetition. In such a schema, the basic, and related, opposition is that between the original and the copy.

A Theory of Mimesis: Autonomy and Madness


Rousseau wants, impossibly, to utter words which are neither interpretable nor misinterpretable, but just are, as confession under torture, which is an event, escapes the fate of interpretation to the degree that it becomes a last worduttered when the victim, on the threshold of death, has nothing left to lose. (During, 71) The modernist aspiration to utter words which . . . just are is analogous to Augustines description of divine language in which intellection is immediate, a gift afforded angels, but not mortals who see through a glass darkly. This divine language is set in direct opposition to human discourse which is necessarily semiotic, dialectical, figurative, or temporal (Vance, 31). The modernist quest for a break between the signifier and the signified, for the rarefaction and sublimation of the word, is associated here with the understanding that it is in death that being is made meaningful. Just as time becomes meaningless in the face of eternitythus Augustines contemplation of eternal years in Commentary on Psalm 76, prompts him to ask whether this does not demand, rather, great silence (43)it is in absence that being emerges. The endeavour to ascribe words with autonomy, to separate the materiality of language from its referential and reflective force, thus freeing language from its mimetic dependence upon the world (During, 197), while at the same time maintaining languages function as language, is part of the greater modernist programme aimed at radical subjectivity. Just as it is only in absence that being emerges, so trust in an original can only occur once a threat to the origin has been articulated (196).

Logos, the vehicle of what is true before or behind representation, is, paradoxically, not older than, but coeval with, mimesis, for the question of truth can only arise when there is something to be true about or towards, as well as a subject to be true for. (196)


Ironically, then, the notion of originality is dependent and coincidental with the notion of repetition, of the copy. Thus, with the emergence of the modern epoch, it is no accident that the development of the individual, coeval with the development of the objectification of that against which the individual is defined, corresponds with the institution of copyright. And to this is linked the cult of the author. The shift in the meaning attributed to author, from authority to creator is founded upon the distinction between originality and mimesis, and most importantly, on the notion of presence this conception hinges on. For Burckhardt, Dante represents the first witness to be called in analysing this movement: He strove for the poets garland with all the power of his soul (Burckhardt, 87): As publicist and man of letters, (Dante) laid stress on the fact that what he did was new, and that he wished not only to be, but to be esteemed the first in his walks. (88) The link that is established here between the valorization of originality and that of the author as agent of originality is founded on the notion of the autonomy of the subject; which, in turn is read within a hierarchical schema that characterizes the Middle Ages, in which originality is disregarded systemically in favour of the translation and recontextualization of auctoritas, as lacking. The aporias implicit in a theory of mimesis, however, undermine the articulation of modern mans relation to medieval man, in parallel with the breakdown of that hierarchical view of representation (During, 196) in which the original is considered superior to the image or images which resemble it. In the modernist project, this hierarchical schema leads toward the ill-fated enterprise to break the object from its representationthe mirage of autonomy.


Autonomy, the form of negative mimesis favoured in modernity, can only itself be represented as the consequence of a will to avoid repetition as one form of bad mimesis. It is here that modern pedagogy is itself entrapped in the fractured logic of mimesis. Autonomy can be represented, ascribed or imagined only by supposing that an original and its image become detached from one another, as if a mirror were to shatter just in reflecting, letting the image become an original in its own right. The force that shatters the mirror is often imaged as dangerous, allied to madness, especially as it pushes towards radical subjectivity. (196) Thus, Hegel writes, we have sometimes heard tell of people who went mad in their efforts to produce the pure act of will and the intellectual intuition (Hegel, 157). The irony, as evinced in Foucaults history of insanity in the age of reason, is that in an epoch committed to the individuation of the subject, the ultimate manifestation of radically individuated subjectivity is understood to be in absolute opposition to reason. Indeed, madness was isolated in its relation to unreason, manifested in its singularity, because although it was considered to belong to unreason, it nonetheless traversed that domain by a movement peculiar to itself, ceaselessly referring from itself to its most paradoxical extreme (Foucault 1965, 83). Foucault describes madness as a fall into determinism where all forms of liberty are gradually suppressed (83), a designation not dissimilar to Adornos description of the reality of rationalism. And it is here, where madness is in dialogue with rationality that madness is to be understood as the mind dominated by illusion, and most especially, the illusion of autonomy and modernity (During, 34). Thus, delirium can be seen as reason in extremis, or rather reason dazzled, the moment in which reason is so blinded by its own light that it loses that light at the very moment that it retains reasons structure. It is a simulacrum of reason (36). At this point the sovereignty of the Cartesian subject, founded upon a moment at which nothing is open to doubt (34), reveals the fundamental doubt that underpins it.


For Descartes the greatest threat to the certainty of reason still lies in the ever present possibility of madness as illusion, in the question: how can I be sure that I am not mad? To this he has no rational answer since scepticism loses its efficacy at this point. (35) Paradoxically, this very doubt is the proof of reason. Delirium, on the other hand, elides this doubt in the sovereign subject (37). And I read Chaucers characterization of Narcisus in The Romaunt of the Rose precisely in these terms. The tragic figure of Narcisus is incapable of loving another, and this isolation is directly related to vanity:

And in the water anoon was seene His nose, his mouth, his yen sheene, And he therof was all abasshed. His owne shadowe had hym bytrasshed, For well wende he the forme see Of a child of gret beaute. Well kouthe Love hym wreke thoo Of daunger and of pride also, That Narcisus somtyme hym beer. (Romaunt, A, 1517-25) And vanity leads to self-love: He lovede his owne shadowe soo / That atte laste he starf for woo (A, 1529-30). This radical individualism (narcism) is linked not only to danger (A, 1482, 1524) and pride (A, 1524) but to madness:

For whanne he saugh that he his wille Myght in no maner wey fulfille, And that he was so faste caught That he hym kouthe comfort nought, He loste his wit right in that place, And diede withynne a lytel space. (A, 1531-36)


Here radically individuated subjectivity (autonomy) is opposed to love of others, embodied in the hapless Echo (repetition), and categorically aligned with madness and, finally, death. Similarly, Deleuze analyses the character Charlus in Prousts Remembrance of Things Past. His bad manners are noted not for their immorality, but because that way madness lies (Proust, 203). As Deleuze indicates, Charlus initial presence is that of a strong personality with an imperial individuality (Deleuze, 128), and from this he declares that Charlus emerges as the master of Logos (129). So the spiraling madness of Gustave Aschenbach in Thomas Manns Death in Venice culminates in the creation of the perfect piece of choice prose, and then silence in death.

Regardless of how much Charlus appears to be the master of logos, his speeches are agitated by involuntary signs resisting the sovereign organization of language, preventing their being mastered by words and sentences, and causing, just the same, the flight of logos as well as our departure to another domain. (129) This domain, universal madness, is a place of silence, where no one speaks any longer (130).

Madness and Memory

Deleuze grounds Charlus madness on the fact that Charlus . . . interprets endlessly. And he concludes, it is as if endless interpretation is already his madness and as if his delirium is the delirium of interpretation (129). Such delirium can be detected in the autobiographical work of the fourteenthcentury cleric Opicinus de Canistris. For Aaron Gurevich, Opicinus delirium is characterized by a manic and at times overly laboured need to provide consistent interpretation:


His period of service as a young man at the custom-house by a bridge (pons) was a foretaste and prototype for his future spiritual service (pontificium); the illumination (illuminatio) of books meant that, in the future, he would illumine his own mind; even his wolfish appetite was lent an allegorical interpretation as a manifestation of his intellectual hunger and desire to share knowledge with others. All external events in his life were so significant, from his point of view, that they required symbolic decoding. (223) Although such symbolic interpretation in not uncommon in the Middle Ages, what distinguishes Opicinus from this common practice is the fact that all these allegories were, without fail, linked with his own persona (223). He is described as incessantly struggling with himself, pondering and becoming ever more deeply engrossed in his own ego (212), a struggle that is couched in terms of a veritable collision between logic and madness (225). However, Gerhart Ladner sees reason to link Opicinus delirium to the historical situation in which a general and ineradicable fear of the Day of Judgement and the prospect of eternal torment were starting to develop into mass phobias and all manner of psychoses (224-5). Hence, Opicinus madness can be seen as symptomatic of his historical situation. Opicinus is interesting to the historian, not as an ill or anomalous individual, but as a phenomenon of his times: in his mental illness, various historically determined tendencies and conditions for the shaping of individuality at that time duly find expression. (Gurevich, 212) That this mass-psychosis follows closely the institutionalization of confession and the inward analysis inherent to it, and immediately precedes the lionisation of individuality is no coincidence. But for me, the most important aspect of Opicinus delirium is the conflict between a radical individualism and the medieval institution of authority.


Opicinus individuality is indistinguishable from his supposed madness. Moreover, where Opicinus focuses exclusively on his own persona, an apparently similarly autobiographical text such as Augustines Confessions must be understood in the context of the writers disavowal of self-knowledge in On Free Will: Why does the soul, contemplating sovereign wisdom (which, since it is immutable, is not the soul itself) contemplate itself, being mutable, and bring itself, so to speak to mind? . . . (I)t is better when it forgets itself charitably in favor of unchanging God . . . . If, to the contrary, the soul takes pleasure in encountering itself, in a perverse imitation of God, and seeks to enjoy its own power, then it diminishes itself in the degree that it desires to be great. Thus, Pride is the beginning of all sin. (Vance, 4) However, although Opicinus writings and drawings are distinguished by their introspectionto the point that his personality and his work can be read as a graphic example of alienation of the individual from the world (Gurevich, 221)there remains a residue of medieval polyvocal subjectivity that stands in conflict with his delirious autonomy: like other writers of the Middle Ages who produced confessions, apologias and autobiographies from fragments drawn from other peoples lives . . . , Opicinus hastened to compare himself with an archetype (Boethius), an example, an authority, to identify his own ego. In his mad state a certain kind of logic really does come to lightthe logic of the medieval personality, which assembled itself in accordance with rules laid down by the culture of the time. (226) I would conclude from this that Opicinus individuality, aligned as it is to madness, is nonetheless grounded on a late medieval notion of the subject that in the end denies the autonomy of the ego. Perhaps a more useful, and certainly a more literary account of madness in the late Middle Ages is Thomas Hoccleves Complaint. Again,


madness is tied to alienation, intense self-examination and interpretation. Moreover, Hoccleve associates his madness with the realisation of the complete contingency of existence: For freshly broughte it to my remembraunce That stablenesse in this world is there non. There is no thing but chaunge and variaunce. (8-10)9 The so-called Series, of which the Complaint is a part, is structured as the formal equivalent of a manuscript miscellany (Burrow 1992, 61), having the effect of framing one of the most self-reflexive pieces of the age in a more orthodox medieval intertextuality. The conventional elements in Hoccleves account of his breakdown have led some to suggest that it is a purely fictive work (Burrow 1977, 266), but literary conventions and the habitual recourse to authority function primarily to ground the text in an intertextual field that is considered inescapable (a topic I will explore in more depth in chapter four). Given the very conventionality of this practice, this does not have the effect of distancing the text from the personal reality which it purports to represent, as for instance T. S. Eliots poetry does. Where Eliot makes a conscious decision to mask his quasi-confessional poems under layers of mythic archetypes, the conventional aspects of Hoccleves poetry are not designed to mask the work, but to lend it authority. Nevertheless, the reality or otherwise of Hoccleves breakdown is irrelevant in the context of my argument, for it is as an investigation of madness, and specifically madness relation to identity and alienation that I refer to it. In a series of stunning dichotomies, Hoccleve establishes the Complaint as primarily an investigation of the construction of identity. Madness becomes the fulcrum for a comparative analysis of identity, both self9

All references to Hoccleves Complaint taken from (Burrows 1977, 266-80).


constructed and socially constructed. The first and most telling dichotomy sets up a comparison between self-perception and the perception of others:

Many a saut made I to this mirrour, Thinking, If that I loke in this manere Amonge folk as I now do, non errour Of suspect look may in my face appere. This countenaunce, I am sure, and this chere If I forth use, is no thing reprevable To hem that han conseites resonable. And therwithall I thoughte thus anon: Men in her owne case ben blind alday, As I have herd say many a day agon, And in that same plite I stonde may. How shall I do, which is the beste way My troubled spirit forto bringe at rest? If I wist how, fain wolde I do the best. (163-75) In this way, madness as the will to autonomy and madness as a provocation for social ostracism is set in parallel to madness as self-analysis and madness as analysed by others. The complexity of these considerations is painfully evinced in the scene in which the narrator tries to intimate the responses of others by observing his visage in a mirror: My spirites laboureden bisily To painte countenaunce, chere and look, For that men spake of me so wonderingly; . . . And in my chaumbre at home when I was, Myself alone, I in this wise wrought: I streite unto my mirrour and my glass To loke how that me of my chere thoughte, If any other were it than it oughte; For fain wolde I, if it had not be right, Amended it to my cunning and might. (149-51, 155-61)


In the former case, the figure of the narrator is individuated within society, in the latter, he falls into solipsism. Here the aporias encompassing the construction of identity in the late Middle Ages are put in stark relief, most particularly the ambiguity surrounding the conflict between self-determination and social-determination of identity. The figure of the mirror in identity construction is a trope common to psychoanalysis, and in terms of, for instance, Lacanian theory, Hoccleves frequent tendency to seek out his own reflection is ineluctably concerned with the development of ego10. The mirror becomes a means of both securing identity with oneself and differentiating from others, but, as Sarah Beckwith astutely appends to such an analysis, (t)he mirror image . . . stresses both identity and difference and it is this tension in the ladder of analogy which provides the necessity for and means of ascent (Beckwith, 42). Thus, it is noteworthy that Hoccleves social alienation is unequivocally associated with estrangement from God, or more precisely the loss of Gods grace. And he characterizes his return to sanity as my savacioun (61). Moreover, he is likened by one observer to a wilde steer (120), to which a second replies, Full buckish is his brain (123). Burrow reads buckish as haughty, overbearing (Burrow 1977, 272), but in a useful extension of this definition, Beryl Rowland reveals that bucke derives from the he-goat, a figure commonly associated with evil in general, and specifically the devil (Rowland, 17). And as Helen Hickey points out, steer is an animal of the hunt but the adjective wilde serves to accentuate the wild man and Biblical into the wilderness tropesthe analogy being man or Israel alienated from God (Hickey, 74-5). The link between evil and individualism (madness) is a trope not uncommon in the Middle Ages, the archetypal figure being, of course, the


devil who alienated himself from communion with God; but a good example is the conflict between Beowulf and Grendel. Where Beowulf is represented as an individual of great distinction, the mightiest man of valor in that same day of this our life, stalwart and stately (Gummere, III, 8-10), his distinction is earned in the service of the community. On the other hand, Grendel responds to community (w)ith envy and anger (I, 34), isolating himself in his dark abode (I, 35) to which he retreated since the Creator his exile doomed (I, 54), an exile linked explicitly to that of Cain (I, 55-63). In the context of the Augustinian ontogenesis elaborated in Confessions I, Hoccleves madness (individualism and, hence, evil), represented as loss of memory (50-1), is analogous to the souls punishment of mortality in the shape of forgetfulness (On Free Will, III.xx.57), a state from which the individual must labour in order to receive divine grace (Vance, 13, 14-5). Augustine breaks this process into seven steps, the final step being wisdom. But as Eugene Vance explains, The sixth step involves cleansing the eye through which we see God, and Augustine achieves this first by examining mans faculty of memory, through which God illuminates his soul, and next by confessing those sins that have been holding his soul captive. (20) The ethical nature of memory is here understood as a vehicle for the attainment of wisdom, the attainment of which may certainly require meditative isolation, but is altogether opposed to solipsistic alienation. It is, thus, not surprising that Hoccleves Complaint often takes the tone of a confession (194-6). Hoccleve describes his wilde infirmit (40) as the thoughtful maladye (21), which immediately sets up a link between madness and intellection, and as becomes increasingly evident in the course of the poem,

See Stephen Nichols analysis of the mirror as the figure for the critical contemplation that


self-analysis. Hoccleve describes his breakdown as the fragmentation of My wit and I (59), and identifies this with the loss of memory: But although the substaunce of my memorye Wente to playe, as for a certain space, Yit the lord of vertue, the king of glorye, Of his hye might and beninge grace, Made it to retourne into the place Whennes it cam, . . . (50-5) As I will contend in chapter four, the construction or assemblage of medieval subjectivity hinges on memoria, and so it is precisely as the loss of memorye that Hoccleve describes his breakdown. This has two effects: he goes on to characterize this loss of memory, this breakdown between reason and self, as a fall into silence: Forwhy, as I had lost my tonges key, / Kepte I me cloos (144-5); and he links his own loss of memorymadness understood as radical individualitywith elision from his associates minds: Foryeten I was, all out of mind away, / As he that dede was from hertes chert (80-1). Furthermore, in line with the proposed intention of the Complaint, to convince his associates that my wit were hoom come again (64), Hoccleve makes a point of relating his description of alienation to that described in Psalm 31. Such a device serves both to illustrate the return of memory, and concomitant with this, but perhaps more importantly, to signify the step from isolation and autonomy (as illustrated by the loss of memory) back to a polyvocal subjectivity, which is based on memory, and related to intertextuality. Thus, the isolation associated with Hoccleves madness is not simply a result of his ostracism, but an intrinsic feature of the malady. As a result, the construction of the text is at once self-reflexive (madness as autonomy), a plea to his contemporaries to recognise his amelioration (ostracism of madness), and at the same time, necessarily conventional and intertextual (signaling the
constitutes an essential constituent for Plotinian subjectivity (Nichols 1993, 12).


return to health). Indeed, Helen Hickey explains that having confessed his mental illness, making an open shryfte (Dialogus cum amico 1.83) by publishing the Complaint, Hoccleve indirectly affirms his recovery from it (Hickey, 61). But in my opinion, what is most telling about his confession is precisely the fact that it is couched in terms of another text, the Synonyma of Isidore of Seville. Just as his madness is characterized as the loss of memory, and a fall into silence, so Hoccleves recovery is represented in terms of intertextuality.



Collective Assemblages of Enunciation

The Metaphysics of Presence

Origin, for man, is much more the way in which man in general, any man, articulates himself upon the already-begun of labour, life, and language; it must be sought for in that fold where man in all simplicity applies his labour to a world that has been worked for thousands of years, lives in the freshness of his unique, recent, and precarious existence a life that has its roots in the first organic formation, and composes into sentences which have never been spoken (even though generation after generation has repeated them) words that are older than all memory. (Foucault 1970 1994, 330) As illustrated in the last chapter, the idea of the original is coeval with the idea of the copyone is meaningless without the other. As Jonathon Culler declares, (s)omething can be a signifying sequence only if it is iterable, only if it can be repeated in various serious and nonserious contexts, cited, and parodied. Imitation is not an accident that befalls an original but its condition of possibility (Culler, 120, my italics). Inscribed in such a theory of mimesis, iteration is privileged over origin as the determinant of meaning. Derrida declares: no meaning can be determined out of context, but no context permits saturation. What I am referring to here is not richness of substance, semantic fertility, but rather structure, the structure of the remnant or of iteration (Derrida 1979, 81). What Derrida is confronting here is the metaphysics of presence (Derrida 1978, 279), a confrontation already inscribed in the role of auctoritas in medieval discourse. The phenomenon of


presence, for Derrida, is the presumed suppression of difference, this lived reduction of the opacity of the signifier (Derrida 1976, 166) that accompanies any system of thought in which meaning is taken to reside in direct relation with the speaking subject. Derrida proposes that, in fact, all signification involves the deferral of presence by virtue of the fact that all signs carry with them the weight of the past. In his sustained critique of logocentrism, Derrida writes of the determination through history of the meaning of being in general as presence, and includes in this determination, belief in selfpresence of the cogito, consciousness, subjectivity, co-presence of the self and the other, (and) intersubjectivity as an intentional phenomenon of the ego (Derrida 1976, 12). When articulated in terms of history and textuality, deconstruction emphasizes that discourse, meaning, and reading are historical through and through, produced in processes of contextualization,

decontextualization, and recontextualization (Culler, 128). And this is precisely the basis of the medieval system of textual construction. Just as the postmodern reevaluation of the modern individuated subject leads to the reappraisal of the medieval polyvocal subject, so the Derridean approach to textual construction prompts a reappraisal of the role of authority in medieval literature, and with it the systematic derogation of the role of the writer. Where Kimmelman, for instance, regards the supremacy of auctoritas in the Middle Ages as a hurdle to be overcome in order to arrive at a definition of the medieval individual (Kimmelman, 6), in the light of the Derridean deconstruction of presence, no such revision is necessary. In fact, the role of the individual is already inscribed in the system of auctoritas, in which the presence of the poet is subsumed by the determination of origin in the past. The medieval individual, wrought by collective assemblages of enunciation (Guattari, 8), and fully cognizant of his or her polyvocal subjectivity, is thoroughly conscious of the inescapably intertextual nature of discourse. The prioritisation of authoritative texts over the person of the writer is the systematic adoption of this realisation.


A poem such as The Book of the Duchess confirms this both practically and thematically. Not only is the poem itself constructed as an assemblage of quotations, decontextualized and recontextualized1, but, internally the poem is inspired by a book, / A romaunce (47-8): And in this bok were written fables That clerkes had in olde tyme, And other poetes, put in rime To rede and for to be in minde, (52-5) This book, to be read and set in memory (55), is the inspiration for the dreamvision to come, and furthermore, the narrator recounts one of the tales in full, That me thoughte a wonder thing (61). So the opening two hundred and thirty lines of the poem are dominated by this recital of an old tale, found in a book of collected fables, by the narrator of the poem. Moreover, the narrator turns to this book initially to find relief from insomnia which he characterizes in terms not dissimilar to Thomas Hoccleves malady: an insomniac for eight years, he claims hit be a sicknesse (36) which has left him melancholic (23). And indeed, this book is not only the inspiration for the dream-vision, but the means of a miraculous cure: upon finishing the book, and beseeching the gods, I hadde unneth that word ysayd Ryght thus as I have told hyt yow, That sodeynly, I nyste how, Such a lust anoon me took To slepe that ryght upon my book Y fil aslepe, . . . (270-5) Such a process is a common feature of the Chaucerian dream-vision. The vision is commonly born out of another, authoritative text, such as Ciceros

Colin Wilcockson writes: At the time of writing the poem Chaucer was strongly influenced by some of the sophisticated French poets, notably Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun (authors of the Roman de la rose), Froissart, and (in particular) Mauchaut (Benson, 1988).


Dream of Scipio in The Parliament of Fowls, which is ordinarily summarized at the beginning of the work. Gregory Stone explains that the medieval writers text . . . does not originate in the present, does not say something new, but rather has already originated in the past (Stone, 43). Stone continues: At the dawn of the Renaissance, this temporal gap between the texts past origin and its present inscription, this difference between the auctor and the writer begins to be eliminated . . . . Once the auctor and the living writer have become one and the same, then the nativity of the text is regarded as taking place inside the latter, as caused by no one other than the writer . . . . This is the birth of the modern or bourgeois idea of the writer as author (the idea of the writer as first cause, creator of an original, novel, unique discourse). (43-4) It is tempting to regard this conceptual movement in the light of its foil, reader-response theory, in which, in the words of Julia Kristeva, discourse receives its meaning from the person(s) to whom it is addressed (Kristeva 1973, 184). Thus, one could read the epistemological position that made necessary the dominance of auctoritas over the scriptor, as an understanding inherent to the system that meaning resides with the reader. Thus the medieval poet would be understood as a reader of authoritative texts and the product, the poem, would be understood as a reading. The basic structure of the Chaucerian dream-vision appears to support such a position. As investigations into the actual creation of poems, Chaucers dream-visions explicitly characterize the poet as a reader. Typically, the narrator is a poet, drawn into the dream-vision by the process of reading. In The Parliament of Fowls, for instance, the poet/narrator opens with a description of love in the first stanza, only to claim in the second that I knowe nat Love in dede (8), but Yit happeth me ful ofte in bokes reede / Of his myrakles and his crewel yre (9-10). This dichotomy between reading and doing continues into the third stanza: Of usagewhat for lust and what for


lore / On bokes rede I ofte (15-6). The birth of the dream, and by extension the nativity of the poem itself, is explicitly linked with consideration of the days reading: the cause were / For I hadde red of Affrican byforn / That made me to mete that he stod there (106-8). And it is directly following this explanation of the origin of the dream that the poet/narrator invokes the assistance of Cytherea, thow blysful lady swete (113), in order my sweven for to write (118). In a general sense, the understanding of medieval poet as reader situates the system of auctoritas, the systemic deferral of authorial presence to authoritative texts, within a deliberate metaphysical commitment to the thesis that texts beget texts. However, I believe it is more useful to consider medieval poetry in light of the Derridean notion of meaning as inscribed within the general text of history in a process of contextualization, decontextualization and recontextualization. What deconstruction proposes is not an end to distinctions, not an indeterminacy that makes meaning the invention of the reader. The play of meaning is the result of what Derrida calls the play of the world, in which the general text always provides further connections, correlations, and contexts. (Culler, 134) Read in this way, we can reject the supposition that the medieval poet lacked subjective input because of an overarching deference to authority, and, returning to the origin of the word in the Latin for originator, maintain the notion of a system of intertextuality that has as its primary motive the understanding not of the inadequacy of the poet as individual, but of the necessarily intertextual nature of poetry. Such a position can support, for instance, Chaucers citing of the apparently fictional Lollius as his auctor for the love song of Troilus, a composite of at least five actual sources in three languages (Finke, 16). In this way, the role of authority enters into the play of meaning as a result of decontextualization and recontextualization. Hence,


Eugene Vance writes, Chaucer surely expected his more astute readers to recognize that the Canticus Troili, . . . is a close translation of Petrarchs sonnet 88 (Vance, 313). And similarly, it has been suggested that the dreamers vague and purblind questions addressed to the Black Knight in The Book of the Duchesswhich are instrumental in his declaration that he knew perfect and reciprocated love cut off eventually by deathare the subtle means of demonstrating to Gaunt out of his own mouth that his situation is identical to that of the Lady in the Behaingne (Benson, 329). The Lady in Guillaume de Machauts dit is deemed to be less grieved by the death of her lover than the knight whose beloved has proved faithless (329). The Derridean approach to meaning, which denies the modern notion of author as sole agent of creation, in fact neatly describes the common medieval practice of textual creation. Indeed, Chaucer asserts as much in The Parliament of Fowls when he attests, . . . out of olde feldes, as men seyth, Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere, And out of olde bokes, in good feyth, Cometh al this newe science that men lere. (22-5) At the same time, moreover, Derrida sets up a parallel between meaning in a text, and presence of the author2. In so doing, he opens the way, not only for the reevaluation of the medieval notion of auctoritas, but for the reevaluation of the medieval polyvocal subject. Understood as a collage, wrought by collective assemblages of enunciation (Guattari, 8), the medieval polyvocal

Merleau-Ponty, for instance, uses language as proof of the impossibility of autonomy in his persistent efforts to decenter the cogito and thus to overcome traditional epistemological antinomies, particularly the subject-object and internal-external bifurcations. Dallmayr writes: According to Merleau-Ponty, ordinary language provides a crucial demonstration of mutual existential inherence. In the experience of discourse, he comments, there is constituted between the other and myself a common ground: my thought and his are interwoven into a single fabric, my words and those of my interlocutor are called forth by the state of discussion and are inserted into a shared operation of which neither of us is the creator (Dallmayr, 96).


subject can, similarly, be seen as the result of processes of contextualization, decontextualization and recontextualization. Along these lines, Richard Rorty compares Wittgensteins,

Davidsons and Derridas willingness to let meaning consist in relation to other texts. And he concludes: The idea of a private language, like Sellarss Myth of the Given, stems from the hope that words might get meaning without relying on other words. This hope, in turn, stems from the larger hope diagnosed by Sartre, of becoming a self-sufficient tre-en-soi (being-in-itself). (Rorty, 24) Rorty is here describing the correlation, mapped out in Chapter Three, between the notion of the autonomy of the self, and that of the autonomy of the signifier. The development of the idea of the autonomous signifier, analyzed by Rorty in The Contingency of Selfhood, is a reverse speculum of an earlier development sketched by Gregory Stone in The Death of the Troubadour, from the late Middle Ages, in which meaning is inscribed within a systematic intertextuality, to the early modern, in which meaning is held to be inherent in the presence of the writer, which leads to the humanist persuasion that an eloquent text orates reality (Vance, 329). Moreover, this movement mirrors the evolution, described by Flix Guattari in the previous chapter, towards an accentuation of the individuation of subjectivity, towards a loss of its polyvocality (Guattari, 99)3.

Similarly, Jrgen Habermas, in An Alternative Way out of the Philosophy of the Subject: Communicative versus Subject-Centered Reason, writes: The paradigm of the philosophy of consciousness is exhausted. If this is so, the symptoms of exhaustion should dissolve with the transition to the paradigm of mutual understanding (Habermas, 3). Habermas paradigm of mutual understanding between subjects capable of speech and action aims to remodel subjectivity, from the transcendental-empirical doubling of the relation to self in which the subject (views) itself as the dominating counterpart to the world as a whole or as an entity appearing within it (4). He writes: As soon as linguistically generated intersubjectivity gains primacy, this alternative no longer applies . . . . When ego carries out a speech act and alter takes up a position with regard to it, the two parties enter into an interpersonal relationship. The latter is structured by the system of reciprocally interlocked perspectives among speakers, hearers, and non-participants who happen to be present at the time . . . . Then ego stands within an interpersonal relationship that allows him to relate to himself as a participant in an


The Derridean notion of textual creation is founded on a reevaluation of the metaphysics of presence, the presence of the author in a text, but more particularly the meaning of being in general as presence (Derrida 1976, 12); and it is, perhaps, best articulated by Borges when he states that (t)o speak is to fall into tautology (Borges, 85). In response to such a model of textuality, Julia Kristeva writes in Desire in Language: Any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations (and is) the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of intertextuality replaces that of intersubjectivity (Kristeva 1980, 66, my italics). Similarly, the medieval polyvocal subject is a mosaic, a model of subjectivity directly related to medieval textual production, which is self-consciously intertextual, an assemblage of discourses decontextualized and recontextualized. Such a model must be understood in relation to the medieval debates centered around signification, as well as Augustines struggle with the basic dichotomies that inform the modern philosophy of the subject. Thus, Eugene Vance writes: Augustine implies that . . . his earliest existence is free of the basic dichotomies of human lifeinner/outer, self/other, spiritual/corporeal, divine/mortal, and so forthwhich do not yet divide and torment his consciousness. (Vance, 12)

Authorial Presence and Memoria

In the rhetoric of postmodernity, all absolutes, including the ostensibly free-thinking subject of modernity, are deemed to be the product of the kind of deluded metaphysical thinking which seeks to ground the contingencies of experience in an authoritative, substantial presence. The ontological security of the modern subject is ravaged in postmodernity by epistemological and linguistic uncertainties turned inward, against itself and its own processes of introspection. In much

interaction from the perspective of alter. And indeed this reflection undertaken from the perspective of the participant escapes the kind of objectification inevitable from the reflexively applied perspective of the observer (3-4).


contemporary thought the self is no longer understood as a pre-linguistic given, but as a linguistic construct. (Worthington, 8) In her work The Book of Memory, Mary Carruthers describes the Medieval notion of memoria as denoting the interactive process of familiarizingor textualizingwhich occurs between oneself and others words in memory (Carruthers, 13). Memoria is the foundation of, or rather the fulcrum for the medieval self, the site in which all collected discourse is assembled, decontextualized and recontextualized, into a new construct, the polyvocal subject. For this reason, the collection of tales in The Book of the Duchess, that trigger both the poet/narrators dream and the poem itself, is not only for reading, but for to be in minde (55), to be memorized. And, as I explained in the previous chapter, Hoccleves identity crisis is articulated as the loss of memory. Carruthers distinguishes between fundamentalism and textualism as representing two polar views of what literature is and how it functions in society (Carruthers, 11). Referring to societies where literature is valued for its social functions, what Brian Stock calls textual communities, in which certain texts provide the sources of a groups memory (12), Carruthers describes the link between memoria and textuality: The Latin word textus comes from the verb meaning to weave and it is in the institutionalizing of a story through memoria that textualizing occurs. Literary works become institutions as they weave a community together by providing it with shared experience and a certain kind of language, the language of stories that can be experienced over and over again through time and as occasion suggests. Their meaning is thought to be implicit, hidden, polysemous and complex, requiring continuing interpretation and adaptation . . . . In the process of textualizing, the original work acquires commentary and gloss; this activity is not regarded as something other than the text, but is the mark of textualization itself. (12)


Carruthers, later, goes on to pose the question implicit in the medieval concept of memoria, particularly in relation to modern sensibilities: When ones first relationship with a text is not to encounter another mind (or subdue it, as one suspects sometimes) or to understand it on its own terms, but to use it as a source of communally experienced wisdom for ones own life, gained by memorizing from it however much and in whatever fashion one is able or willing to do; when ones head is constantly filled with a chorus of voices available instantly and on any subject, how does such a relationship to the works of other writers differently define the meanings of such literary concepts as reader, text, author? (162) Mary Carruthers question is no different than asking how a post-structuralist approach to textual production affects the definition of such concepts. Indeed, for Roland Barthes, the redefinition of such concepts as author and text is implicit in the redefined concept of reader. In The Death of the Author, Barthes upended the previously accepted temporality of writing: The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book . . . . In complete contrast, the (post)modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text. Thus, he writes, every text is eternally written here and now (Barthes, 145, my brackets). In this way, the concept text is realigned in order to accommodate what the infinite sacred book, the book of the world or of history. We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single theological meaning (the message of the Author-God) but a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture. Similar to Bouvard and Pcuchet, those eternal copyists, at once sublime and comic and whose profound ridiculousness indicates precisely the truth of writing, the writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others . . . : life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred. (146-7)


What Barthes is describing is precisely the nature of medieval textual production which is quite self-consciously anterior, never original. Concomitant with the loss of originality is the erasure of the personality of the author. The subjectivity of the writer is subjugated to the conventionality of the act of communication, prompting Barthes preference for the title scriptor. Gregory Stone, in The Death of the Troubadour, illuminates well the link between language and subjectivity in the Middle Ages. Referring to both Nietzsche and Dante, Stone asserts that language . . . necessarily entails the vulgarization of the individual: to speak is to identify oneself as one of the vulgus, one of the people, public, mass, or crowd. Speech or grammar is always the common property of the gens, of a general rather than a particular subject. (Stone, 4-5) Hence, following Dante, Stone employs the word grammatical in the sense of the term universal; in this sense, grammar is akin to the laws of mathematics, it is a conventional and universal language. Courtly love lyric is grammatical in the sense that it is a conventional discourse, settled, as Dante says concerning grammar, by the common consent of many peoples. (5) According to Stone, courtly lyric is, by its very nature, without a determinate referent (8). Hence, the courtly lyric, by remaining anonymous is accessible to all people, to all lovers. This position is not dissimilar to Barthes redefinition of the role of reader in The Death of the Author: Thus is revealed the total existence of writing: a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto


said, the author. The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost . . . . (Barthes, 148) The ideological shift which Barthes describes must be considered no more than a return to the premodern position articulated by Stone. Stone asserts that in the latter half of the thirteenth century, at the dawn of the Renaissance a shift occurs in the nature of courtly lyric and its relation to the individual troubadour, in which this singing pronoun, this purely grammatical lyric ego that is the troubadour, begins to be named (8). The referent of the pronoun has no fixed identity, no special qualities:. . . according to Priscian, the pronoun substantiam significat sine aliqua certa qualitate (signifies a substance without qualities fixed in some way). The pronoun is a pro-nomen, a word that signifies before the attribution of the name or noun (both meanings are signified by the Latin nomen, as they still are in the Modern French nom). The naming of the name, the nominalization of the pronoun, the transformation from the pro-nomen to nomen, is the fixing of certain particular qualities, the determination of the subject . . . . (7) This is the beginning of the author, the birth of which Barthes signals the death. With the production of the manuscript anthologies of troubadour verse, composed in Old Provencal yet produced in Italy in the late thirteenth century, the anonymous courtly lyric is accompanied by the determinate narrative prose of the biographical vidas and razos (8). The relation of the vidas and razos to the lyric verse they accompany is illustrative of the movement away from a medieval mentality toward a Renaissance mentality. Barthes neatly details this movement: The author is a modern figure, a product of our society insofar as, emerging from the Middle Ages with English empiricism, French rationalism and the personal faith of the Reformation, it discovered the


prestige of the individual, of, as it is more nobly put, the human person.4 (Barthes, 142-3) Stone describes what he calls a reversal in the perceived relationship between song and the historia. The Renaissance conception holds that song is derived from a literal historia; yet the nascent moment of this conception, the linking of historia with song in the manuscript anthologies of troubadour verse remains distinctly medieval. Prose, suggests Dante, is not a realistic discourse grounded in the literal facts of lived experience or ordinary life; it is, rather, a sort of translation, imitation, or expansion of a fundamental, originary song. . . . The vidas and razos, like the songs upon which they are founded, represent the subject as an effect of language, as one who comes into being only in and through languagenot as one who, existing within himself fully and absolutely before language, then uses language merely as the vehicle, as the instrument or tool, to express or externalize this extra- or pre-linguistic inner existence. . . . Dantes rejection of this reversal in the relation between poetic language and life indicates that he still understands the essential significance of the troubadour project, which is to represent song as the origin of the subject rather than the subject as the origin of song. (Stone, 9) It is possible to see in Barthes repudiation of the modern cult of the author a postmodern adjunct to the premodern stance of Dante, in which textual creation is rather a continual recapitulation of the fundamental, originary song.

He goes on: It is thus logical that in literature it should be this positivism, the epitome and culmination of capitalist ideology, which has attached the greatest importance to the person of the author. The author still reigns in histories of literature, biographies of writers, interviews, magazines, as in the very consciousness of men of letters anxious to unite their person and their work through diaries and memoirs. The image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centred on the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his passions, . . . . The explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it, as if it were always in the end, through the more or less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person, the author confiding in us.


Memoria as Textual Graft

Although Roland Barthes formulation is useful in deciphering the poststructuralist reappraisal of concepts like author and reader, a more complete approach to the subject is Derridas critique of the metaphysics of presence.5 Here we see the shift that occurs between Barthes determination of the presence of the text in the reader, and Derridas endlessly deferred presence. Furthermore, we open upon the very problematic crux of the old tension between immanence and transcendence (Jameson, 183). Derrida writes of two interpretations of interpretation, which he describes as absolutely irreconcilable even if we live them simultaneously and reconcile them in an obscure economy. The first of these seeks to decipher, dreams of deciphering a truth or an origin which escapes play and the order of the sign and which lives the necessity of interpretation as an exile (Derrida 1978, 2923). It is in response to this latter that Barthes describes writing as the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin (Barthes, 142). And later, he writes, the hand, cut off from any voice, borne by a pure gesture of inscription (and not of expression), traces a field without originor which, at least, has no other origin than language itself, language which ceaselessly calls into question all origins (146) Thus, Derrida continues: The other (interpretation), which is no longer turned toward the origin, affirms play and tries to pass beyond man and humanism, the name of

Jacques Derridas poststructuralist account of human subjectivity similarly prioritizes linguistic operation as the medium of self-conception. Selfhood, on his account, takes on the contours of criture, the operations of endlessly mediated and deferred (conceptual) writing. The meaning of the human subject is reduced to an effect of diffrance . . . and the impossible attempt to bridge the gap between signifier and signified. The self as discursive construct is deemed equally prey to the dispersals and mediations of Derridas famously theorized movement of diffrance which renders the notion of presence a discredited metaphysical illusion, pointing as it does to the forever incomplete, deferred nature of the significatory process: Presence is a determination of an effect within a system which is no longer that of presence but that of difference(Worthington, 6).


man being the name of that being who, throughout the history of metaphysics and of onto-theologyin other words, throughout his entire historyhas dreamed of full presence, of reassuring foundations, of the origin and the end of play . . . . (Derrida 1978, 292) For Derrida there is no possible means to choose between these two irreconcilable interpretations. To return to Stones delineation of the grammatical nature of song, and songs relation to historia, the point of demarcation on which his point rests is a very specific definition between the communal and the individual, between the general and the novel. Song, likened to grammar and langue is described as always already social and conventional rather than individual, novel, and localized (Stone, 17). This raises the question of the neat definition assumed between the social and conventional and the individual, novel and localized. Umberto Eco writes in Postscript to The Name of the Rose, When the writer (or the artist in general) says he has worked without giving any thought to the rules of the process, he simply means he was working without realizing he knew the rules. A child speaks his mother tongue properly, though he could never write out its grammar. (Eco 1984b, 11) What is brought into focus here is the problem of novelty in writing. Eco continues on this theme later while explaining the rationality behind his first novels many levels of narrative authority: I set about reading or rereading medieval chroniclers, to acquire their rhythm and their innocence. They would speak for me, and I would be freed from suspicion, but not from the echoes of intertextuality. Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known (and have told us again and again): books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told. Homer knew this, and Ariosto knew this, not to mention Rabelais and Cervantes. (19-20)


In another context, he writes of the dialogue between (a) text and all other previously written texts (books are made only from other books and around other books) (47). Eco writes in accordance with Gregory the Great who urges us to transform what we read into our very selves, so that when our mind is stirred by what it hears, our life may concur by practicing what has been heard (Carruthers, 164). Carruthers commentary on this most common medieval scholarly method is illuminating: One does not rely upon ingenium, aptitude, one hides the fruits of reading in the recesses of memory (in memorie penetralibus) and through practice makes ones reading familiar to oneself, domesticates it (to use Albertus Magnuss word), makes it ones own. Perhaps no advice is so common in medieval writing on the subject, and yet so foreign, when one thinks about it, to the habits of modern scholarship as this notion of making ones own what one reads in someone elses work. (164) Although Carruthers characterization of the vast gulf that is evident between the Middle Ages and the modern era with respect to the ownership, or origin of a text is nothing if not accurate, I would most keenly emphasize the equally sizable gulf that is evident in respect to this issue between the modern era and the post-structuralist theory of, particularly, Derrida. If one is to assume that any text is a palimpsest and that all writing is tautology, particularly in the context of structuralist and post-structuralist sign theory, one must conclude that all texts are always already social and conventional and further, that in some fundamental way, no text is completely individual, novel, and localized. For Derrida, the process of textual appropriation can best be illustrated by the analogy between the forms of textual grafting and so-called vegetal grafting (Derrida 1981a, 202). Indeed, Culler defines deconstruction as, among other things, an attempt to identify grafts in the texts it analyzes


(Culler, 135). Derrida calls for a systematic treatise on the textual graft (Derrida 1981a, 202) which Culler explains would treat discourse as the product of various sorts of combinations or insertions. Exploring the iterability of language, its ability to function in new contexts with new force, a treatise on textual grafting would attempt to classify various ways of inserting one discourse in another or intervening in the discourse one is interpreting. The fact that one has only the vaguest idea how to organize a typology of grafts indicates the novelty of this perspective, and perhaps the difficulty of making it productive. (Culler, 135) Given acceptance of the heterogeneity of texts, a systematic treatise on textual grafts would, in my opinion, schematize the fundamental role of appropriation and recontextualization of diverse discourses within texts. And it is precisely as a schematic model of a system of appropriation and recontextualization that memoria functions in the Middle Ages. The fundamental model for the technique of memorization involved the systematic fragmenting of texts into small segments. Each segment, isolated from its original context, was then cross-referenced within memoria. One could thus think of it in several different settings, leading to the process of composition in the modern English sense. It is no wonder that early writers considered building metaphors to be so apt both for reading and composing, for each memorized bit is like a plank or brick one places in a design. (Carruthers, 174) The analogy with the contemporary music industry technique of using sound bytes lifted from other songs is striking. One of the most common metaphorical associations for this process was, naturally, with consumption. The Regulum monachorum, ascribed to Jerome, though considered to have been composed in the twelfth century, states:


Wherefore, as a belch bursts forth from the stomach according to the quality of the food, and the significance (to health) of a flatus is according either to the sweetness or stench of the odor, so the cogitations of the inner man bring forth words, and from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (LK, 6:45). The just man, eating, fills his soul. And when he is replete with sacred doctrine, from the good treasury of his memory he brings forth those things which are good. (166) Thus, the notion of ruminatio was not reserved only for the process of meditating on a text; composition is also described as ruminatio (165). Derridas grafting analogy, while useful for describing the

fundamentally intertextual nature of writing, is, at the same time, most useful when it comes to describing the very nature of intertextuality. The relationship between a book and its source, is understood not as one-way, but multidirectional. Thus the concept of intertextuality describes the process by which one text is informed by many previous texts, and those latter texts are equally informed by the former6. Thus Derrida writes, (e)ach text is a machine with multiple reading heads for other texts (Derrida 1979, 107). So, as I suggested above, the role of auctoritas is two-fold: First, to acknowledge the work upon which the writer founds his text; and second, to openly enjoin a variety of texts in a discussion with each other, and, indeed, with the text within which they are newly inscribed. The central role of memoria in medieval composition attests not merely to the importance of authority to medieval scholarship, but represents a frank acceptance and, indeed, schematization of the process of intertextuality.

Where one text claims to analyze and elucidate another, it may be possible to show that in fact the relationship should be inverted: that the analyzing text is elucidated by the analyzed text, which already contains an implicit account of and reflection upon the analysts moves. Derridas most graphic instance, Le Facteur de la vrit, inverts Lacans reading of The Purloined Letter to show how Poes story already analyzes and situates the psychoanalysts attempt at mastery. But like most grafts, this is subject to further grafts. So Barbara Johnson goes on to argue, repeating Derridas graft, that Derridas moves in his discussion of Lacan are already repetitions of moves anticipated in the texts Derrida is reading and thus illustrate the transfer of the repetition compulsion from the original text to the scene of its reading (Culler, 139).


The point, and it is perhaps the cornerstone of my argument, is that the medieval attitude toward memoria, that text inscribed in the living mind, and its relation to the written text, was no less a reasoned philosophical stance than postmodern, particularly post-structuralist, approaches are today. For, indeed, both schemas are based upon an understanding of the intertextual nature of writing, and by extension, the necessarily intersubjective nature of an individuals knowledge and existence. Hence, no line is drawn between the content of a persons memory, and that persons character. Cassiodorus provides one of the best medieval statements of the virtue of acquiring such material, the topica as he calls them, stored in memory. Clearly [memoria is] a remarkable sort of workthat in one place could be gathered together whatever the mobility and variety of the human mind was able to learn by inquiring about the sensible world through various postulatesit contains the free and willful mind; for wherever it turns itself, whatever thoughts it enters into, of necessity the human mind falls into some one of those commonplaces earlier mentioned. The commonplaces are understood here to be habits of thought, habits of character as well, the hexis or firma facilitas, complete mastery of subject and self, that Quintillian understood hexis to mean. (Carruthers, 178)

The fundamental metaphysical shift that has accompanied the postmodern revision of modernism has provided medievalists with a welcome abundance of new tools and approaches. But these have yet to be fully exploited. Responding to a period in which the subject has been radically individuated, postmodernism is uniquely placed to revise that epoch which immediately preceded modernity. Primarily, the positivism and progressivism of modernism, which has, since the Renaissance, shadowed the account of the preceding Middle Ages, is revealed as unworkable and biased in favour of a


series of narrow metaphysical priorities. All facets of medieval studies are open for revision, but none more so than the foundational account of the birth of the individual. However, the affinity between the Middle Ages, particularly the later period, and the postmodern epoch, is not unidirectional. Informed by the antireductionism of postmodernism, the Middle Ages can be revisited with fresh eyes. But perhaps more importantly, and certainly crucial to the continued vitality of medieval studies as a whole, the Middle Ages can serve to enlighten the ongoing postmodern metaphysical programme. And it is here that the study of the Middle Ages must situate itself in the twenty-first century. Medieval studies must perforce take that leap, effecting a realignment of the historical position afforded the medieval epoch. A first step would be to liberate the Middle Ages from the position of irrelevant and quaint anachronism bequeathed it by modernity, a status, it must be added, implied in the very term pre-modernity tied as it is to a strict progressivist teleology. And at the same time, the Middle Ages should be invested with that relevance due it in a time when the entire metaphysical construct on which modernity rests is questioned. In creating a framework for an understanding of the self-consciously polyvocal nature of medieval subjectivity I have focussed more on the theoretical side of the argument. My intention has been to initiate a programme that is purposefully broad rather than attempting to exhaust one particular avenue. As a point of departure for the reappraisal of the medieval subject, this programme can inform not only the effort to construct a workable definition of the medieval individual but the parallel contemporary effort to seek a post-individualist subject. So, a study of the individual in the Middle Ages might take the hacceity of Duns Scotus as its point of departure. But rather than inscribing it in a teleological movement which has as its ultimate expression the modern autonomous cogito, this study could instead set up a comparison with the Deleuzian use of the term. Ultimately, such a study


would aim not only to inform the consideration of medieval philosophy but, perhaps more importantly, postmodern philosophy as well. And the pronominal narrator of The House of Fame need not be inscribed in a narrative articulating a steady individuation of the subject, but rather understood as a totally self-conscious narrator, fully aware of the polyvocality both of his own subjectivity and the text which he indites and in which he is inscribed. A subjectivity which has for so long been remarkable primarily because it is so alien to modern sensibilities, can be celebrated in its own right, or established as an exemplar in the postmodern campaign to broaden the definition of subjectivity.




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