Monastic Manuscript Networks of the Anglo-Welsh March: A Study in Literary Transmission
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CitationHenley, Georgia. 2017. Monastic Manuscript Networks of the Anglo-Welsh March: A Study in Literary Transmission. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation approaches the question of shared influence between medieval Welsh and English literatures by conducting a study of the monastic networks of transmission in the Anglo-Welsh borderlands that permitted common literary analogues and motifs to arise. I demonstrate that a lively traffic in books, texts, and information took place through the mediation of the Anglo-Welsh March, fostered by a semi-independent frontier society, its patrons, and monasteries. This network of exchange was enabled by a growth of the monastic orders in the twelfth century following initial Anglo-Norman forays into South Wales and by interdependent relationships between Marcher aristocrats and the monastic houses they patronized. I argue that the transmission of texts between Wales and England through the medium of the March was not a passive, reflexive process; instead it was often the result of specific actions by individuals or institutions interested in collecting texts, often hagiographical and historical and almost always in Latin, for specific uses. I discuss several examples of Marcher patrons and monastic houses conducting research into the Welsh historical past for personal or institutional gain, a byproduct of the shifting ecclesiastical and social hierarchies of Anglo-Norman South Wales. In turn, these new points of contact between Welsh and Anglo-Norman monasteries allowed for an infusion of new historical sources into Welsh Latin chronicle writing in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and I reframe how these chronicles should be viewed in their broader context.
In the second half of the dissertation I turn to the reception of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s De gestis Britonum in Wales and the March in order to examine the impact of this web of cross-border influence on contemporary views of the past. I demonstrate how the reception of Geoffrey’s history in Wales was enabled by a deeply embedded Latinate culture and provide a reading of Brut y Brenhinedd in Glamorgan that takes into account the hybrid cultural environment of the Marcher lordships. I also discuss the reception of the Middle English Prose Brut by a western Herefordshire readership and explore the uses of Geoffrey by the Mortimers of Herefordshire, a Marcher dynasty with connections in both England and Wales; in particular I discuss how they use Galfridian history to their advantage, promoting their descent from Anglo-Norman and Welsh nobility in a genealogical compilation. These case studies highlight the complexities of the relationship between Wales and England as it was worked out through the mediating environment of the March, which effectively became a space for negotiating historical memory and evaluating the place of each region in the broader context of British history.
The project overall pursues three related lines of inquiry. It examines how literary influence works through detailed study of hagiographical and historical sources; it gives special attention to the role of Marcher society, with its distinct identity and laws, in fostering cross-cultural connections; and it evaluates the use of Geoffrey’s history in South Wales and the March to negotiate contemporary conflicts, promote dynasties, and resolve issues of the past in an evolving multilingual environment. By focusing on the March it becomes possible to make broader arguments about how literary influence works: it is not a passive undercurrent in the background of the production of literature, but a phenomenon generated by the purposeful behaviors of specific actors who choose to bring texts across political, linguistic, and cultural boundaries. I demonstrate that because of the March’s status as an active and creative site of transmission and cultural mixing, Marcher literary production had a disproportionate amount of influence on the literary cultures of its neighboring countries.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41140193
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