Books of Life and Death I

First try. Can I get this link to work?

The Sound Check  for a bigger performance.

And that’s where the First Try becomes the first part of a story.  I am grateful to three people above all for the chance to write this: to David, whose interest in an obscure Bodleian MS has brought us together to discuss it and whose support continues to spur me on; to Roger, educationalist and medievalist whose critical interest in Gawain led him to join Mat and me in our exploration of Lud’s Church in the Wild Spaces, Wild Magic project; to Jon, who suggested my struggles with Thursbitch might be symbolic of a larger set of conflicts, and who directed me to autoethnographic studies that have informed his own work. But these pages aren’t going to be more psychogeography about Thursen but will look at the ways in which returning to a subject show how the discipline has shifted. Those who stayed with medieval/reformation studies will either groan at my obvious comments or will see how things change from a different perspective – I am like an aged Auntie who sees someone they saw some years ago and says “My word! Haven’t you grown?!?!” – as if growing and developing were the last thing one might expect.

The first thing I note is the ways in which use of “New Technologies” has radically changed the pace.  To get a copy of the MS I’m studying back in maybe 1985 took forms, a grant from College, a wait, and the arrival of a bundle of foolscap sheets. For their time they were a wonder, and allowed me to continue to study with a small baby in tow.  Similarly, to see some of the works of Richard Whytforde required another grant, then sometimes a day down in the British Library to order the books and another to read them.  The app that converts photos of text into razor-sharp PDFs, and the wonders of EEBO mean that texts are – at least if you have a University affiliation – accessible in a way that they simply weren’t before.

Consolamini as the text goes. But where have I heard that before? Actually, I do know where: I hear it in the Advent prose Rorate Caeli Desuper (this is a good version: v 4 gives you the text). I find several clips with a few keystrokes, and select the one I like the best: copy, paste the link.  But where does that wording come from? Somewhere in Isaiah…  Ah yes: another quick search finds me Isaiah 40. And now I can start to ponder a bigger and hopefully more fruitful question: what use is the author of the MS making of this wording? What are the “consolations” he is writing about and how might they differ from the things the Hebrew Isaiah is referring to? How has John of Syon used, ignored, enlarged on death as a Fall of Jerusalem? or the Second Coming? [This, of course, takes me beyond this blog, so I’ll end here].



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