Latinity, Manuscripts, and the Rhetoric of Conquest in Late-Eleventh-Century Wales

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Latinity, Manuscripts, and the Rhetoric of Conquest in Late-Eleventh-Century Wales

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Title: Latinity, Manuscripts, and the Rhetoric of Conquest in Late-Eleventh-Century Wales
Author: Zeiser, Sarah Elizabeth
Citation: Zeiser, Sarah Elizabeth. 2012. Latinity, Manuscripts, and the Rhetoric of Conquest in Late-Eleventh-Century Wales. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation explores the complex interactions among written text, language choice, and political context in Wales in the late-eleventh and early-twelfth centuries. I argue that writers in medieval Wales created in both their literary compositions and their manuscripts intricate layers of protest and subversion in direct opposition to the authority of the Anglo-Norman political hegemony and the aggrandizing spread of the Canterbury-led church. These medieval literati exploited language and script as tools of definition. They privileged Welsh or Latin when their audience shifted, and they employed the change from early Insular script to the Caroline script of the Normans as not just a natural evolution in script development, but as a selective representation of mimicked authority. The family of Bishop Sulien at Llanbadarn Fawr has been the focal point of this study, as they were active during a time of Anglo-Norman intervention in their community that is reflected in the shifting script of their manuscripts and the apprehensive though proud tone of their compositions, which include the vitae of saints David and Padarn and the poetry of Ieuan and Rhygyfarch ap Sulien. My work provides a much-needed cohesive portrait of the multilingual medieval Welsh literary culture at the turn of the twelfth century. Questions of audience and authority come into play, particularly when considering the growing hybridity of learned communities during the Anglo-Norman infiltration of Wales. Manuscripts themselves are viewed as vehicles of identity, for the evolution of script and design offers clues as to the methods of compromise practiced by Welsh intellectuals. This compromise in the written word can be viewed as an embodiment of the Welsh desire and need to mediate fraught political boundaries, as they did using both the ‘nation’-defining Welsh language and the vehicular prestige language of Latin, resulting in an intertextual exploration of identity through the act of writing itself. Writing is a critical demonstration of Welsh authorship and agency in medieval Britain, and one that can be used to reflect upon notions of Welsh identity.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10288377
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