Stephen G. Nichols (Johns Hopkins University Baltimore), Dept. of German and Romance Languages, Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 21218-2687, United States
The medieval codex fostered textual mutability as opposed to the ‘fixed text’ made possible by print. Yet, the Middle Ages resisted change in and for itself. This paper explores the delicate balance between stability, on the one hand, and transformation, on the other in medieval vernacular literature. Only a culture that saw no contradiction in promulgating an omnipotent, unchanging divinity, which was at the same time a dynamic principle of construction and transformation could have managed the paradox of ‘mutable stability’. While this principle operates in a number of domains – not least in the myriad art forms known as ‘Romanesque’ – this paper focuses on manuscript transmission of vernacular literature. In particular, it examines the concepts of ‘sameness’ and ‘resemblance’ that shaped the concepts of vision in the Roman de la Rose, and thus manuscripts transmission. Using the idea of generative or regenerative transformation of the text, the paper illustrates a basic principle of stability, namely, ‘the ability of an object to adjust to load changes without any reduction in performance’.
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