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How to Use a Medieval Alphabetical Index

How to Use a Medieval Alphabetical Index
125 Queen's Park, Centre for Medieval Studies, Lillian Massey Building rm. 310
Time: Apr 17th, 3:00 pm End: Apr 17th, 4:30 pm
Interest Categories: Medieval Studies (FAS), Information, Faculty of, History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), Historical and Cultural Studies (UTSC), English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), Critical Theory, Book History/Print Culture, 1200-1500
Graduate workshop on medieval book history with Emily Steiner, U. Pennsylvania

The Centre for Medieval Studies is pleased to present a Graduate Workshop in Medieval Book History:

Emily Steiner, University of Pennsylvania

How to Use a Medieval Alphabetical Index

The Centre for Medieval Studies and the Collaborative Program in Book History and Print Culture are pleased to announce a graduate workshop on medieval book history that will be offered by Emily Steiner, Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. Many graduate students will already have encountered Steiner’s exciting work on the intersections of literary form and the materiality of textual production (Documentary Culture and the Making of Medieval English Literature, 2003; The Letter of the Law: Legal Practice and Literary Production in Medieval England, 2002; Reading 'Piers Plowman', 2013); this workshop will provide an opportunity to learn more about what is at stake in approaching pre-modern texts with such questions in mind. The subject of the workshop forms part of Professor Steiner’s larger project, An Information  Age: Literature and the Pursuit of Knowledge in England, ca 1400. Professor Steiner will also be one of the keynote speakers at the Canada Chaucer Seminar on Saturday April 18th.

In this seminar, I will be discussing what I take to be the first alphabetical index in English, John Trevisa's subject index to the Polychronicon. John Trevisa, a Cornishman trained at Oxford, was a major translator in the 1380s and 90s, who rendered into lively English prose some of the most influential texts of the fourteenth century. These included the massive universal history, the Polychronicon, Giles of Rom's mirror-for-princes, De regimine principum, and Bartholomaeus Anglicus's natural encyclopedia, De proprietatibus rerum. But translation turns out to be a very different sort of enterprise than navigation: it's one thing to translate a history into English and quite another thing to create an English finding aid from scratch. Information technology and literary history don't always go hand in hand, and Trevisa's English index, though a spectacular failure as a finding aid, challenges modern sensibilities about what it means to use an alphabet.

For further information about this event, please contact the organizer, Professor William Robins.

Download event description [pdf]


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