Wessex Parallel WebTexts


about the project
what is mouvance?
what is mouvance?
index of first lines


Mouvance in the ME lyric: a case study

De Lisle Psalter, Crucifixion
The six texts edited here, which survive in manuscripts dating from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, offer different versions of a Middle English verse meditation on the Passion. The image evoked is of a crucifixion scene, with the Virgin Mary on one side of Christ, and John, the beloved disciple, on the other. 

list of texts
1. Ho that sith him one the rode (London, British Library, MS Harley 7322, f. 7r)
2. Quanne Hic se on rode (London, British Library, Royal MS 12 E. 1, f. 194v)
3. Qvanne I zenke onne the rode (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 360, f. 145vb)
4. Vyen I o the rode se (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 57, f. 102v)
5. Wenne Hic soe on rode idon (St John's College, Cambridge, MS 15, f. 72r)
6. Wose seye on rode (Cambridge, Trinity College, MS 323, f. 83v)


on-line tutorial exercise

This exercise, based on the six texts edited above, is intended as a basis for class discussion (so there are no answers, only questions). You should start by reading the accompanying essay on mouvance; then set aside at least a couple of hours for working through, and thinking about, the texts, making notes as you go.

Medieval religious lyrics are usually presented in student editions as single edited texts, sometimes in modernized or at least standardized spelling, detached from their manuscript context and the broader history of their textual transmission (e.g., the edition of poem 2, Quanne Hic se on rode, in R.T. Davies, ed., Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology (London: Faber, 1963), no. 30, p. 99). There are good reasons for this --- pedagogic as well as practical --- but it can encourage the modern reader to misconstrue both the function of the poem (can Quanne Hic se on rode be read in Romantic terms as 'a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion', or even equated with works like Donne's Holy Sonnets?) and its nature (are we really looking at a fixed and 'authorized' text?).

This exercise is designed to introduce you to the 'work' (or oeuvre, in Zumthorian terms) which underlies Davies' edited text, by encouraging you to compare its various surviving manuscript texts, with more editorial support than most student editions can provide. You will probably find it useful to go through one of the versions thoroughly first in its on-line edition (try poem no. 5, Wenne Hic soe on rode idon), and then use it as a basis for comparison with the others.
For plain texts of all six lyrics on a single sheet, in Microsoft Word format for printing out, click on http://www.soton.ac.uk/~wpwt/studytext.doc.

Consider the following questions:
--- what kinds of variation do you find between these texts? (look at content, poetic form (including rhyme-schemes), wording, order of elements ...)
--- is it possible to establish any clear line (or lines) of descent in this group of texts?
--- does textual variation necessarily involve textual deterioration?
--- what reasons can you suggest for the variation in these texts?
--- what kind of context do you think they were produced in (and for)? Does their manuscript context give any indication of their likely function?
--- do these texts have authors? how important is 'authorial intention' here?
---can you suggest any examples of modern works (literary or non-literary) subject to mouvance or variance?

Bring your notes on these points to the class.

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Set up by Bella Millett, enm@soton.ac.uk. Last updated 13 March 2003 . Image from the De Lisle Psalter, London, British Library,  Arundel 83 II, f. 132r,  reproduced by permission of the British Library; no further reproduction permitted.