Keynote Address

Keynote Speaker: Deborah McGrady, University of Virginia

Deborah McGrady’s scholarly interests have long centered on a series of interlocking topics, ranging from medieval readership and authorship to literary exchange dynamics and the role the material artifact plays in cultivating intimacy. Her scholarship has included a monograph study of the reception history of Guillaume de Machaut’s writings as expressed in material copies of his works, several articles on patronage dynamics in late-medieval France, co-edited casebook studies on Machaut (with Jennifer Bain) and Christine de Pizan (with Barbara Altmann), and two co-directed grant-funded manuscript digitization projects (Machaut in the Book: Representation of Authorship in Late Medieval Manuscripts and Making Medieval Poetry). Her work with digitized manuscripts has also led to writings that explore the overlap between the medieval codex and its digitized surrogate. Her talk will develop ideas detailed in her forthcoming book, The Writer’s Gift or the Patron’s Pleasure? The Literary Economy in Late-Medieval France.

Title: “Patronage avant la lettre: Literary Exchange at the Late-Medieval French Royal Court”

Studies of Renaissance patronage typically serve as the template for discussing literary exchange in European culture. Yet, when retroactively applied to medieval cases, this template imposes a vocabulary and a philosophy that distorts (and, more often than not, dismisses) the views of medieval intellectuals, poets, and artists who were deeply attuned to both the advantages and risks involved in attending to their superiors’ desires. Nowhere is this better evidenced than at the French royal court of Charles V, the third Valois king who has long been celebrated for undertaking during his brief 16-year reign (1364-1380) an unparalleled patronage campaign that resulted in the creation of the first French royal library and the production of around 40 new vernacular writings and translations. The artists and writers who answered his demand for books were as much invested in answering his interest in learned culture as they were in shaping his views on exchange. Far from passive agents of royal patronage, these men were keen to communicate a philosophy of exchange that positioned the transferred object as an intellectual gift rather than as a bespoken text that answered the patron’s pleasure. My talk will present this philosophy as expressed in text and image in Charles V’s books before then turning to how this earlier treatment of patronage can better inform later developments in literary and artistic sponsorship. The Salzinnes Antiphonal will serve as a reference point to examine both the continuities and differences between accounts of creative partnerships before and after the construction of the Renaissance patron-figure.

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