Reading and the Lemma in Early Medieval Textual Culture

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Reading in the Middle Ages is often examined for its different forms (oral and silent; public and private; slow and rapid; meditative and ratiocinative), its contexts (monastic, clerical, and secular), its roots (classical underpinnings), and its roles (acquisition of literacy and comprehension). It is integral to the study of disciplines such as grammar and rhetoric, and provides insight into the interplay between the vernacular and Latin in the medieval world. This paper focuses on a kind of reading not aimed at facilitating rapid comprehension and ease of access to written information. It studies the lemma, the word or phrase in the text that is glossed, as a clue to reading of heavily annotated texts that, I argue, often demanded an engaged level of concentration. The lemma thus demonstrates a reading practice that is different to but runs alongside what Malcolm Parkes has termed the “grammar of legibility” which emerged in the seventh century and became more prevalent on the Continent in the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries. Parkes together with Paul Saenger and others have shown that the graphical techniques for promoting legibility were fundamental preconditions for the expansion of written culture, the rise of the universities, the development of the scholastic model of reading and the late medieval book.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Annotated Book in the Early Middle Ages: Practices of Reading and Writing
EditorsM. Teeuwen, I. Van Renswoude
Place of PublicationTurnhout
PublisherBrepols Publishers
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)978-2-503-56948-2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Publication series

NameUtrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy


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