Henry Ravenhall (King's College London)
Fellow in Research Area 3: "Future Perfect"
September – December 2020
Making Sense/Making Time: Medieval French Compilations Relating the Trojan Past (1250–1350)
This postdoctoral project at EXC 2020 examines the temporal implications of compilation as a medieval practice by considering Francophone manuscripts that compile narratives of Troy alongside other texts. While considerable attention has been paid to questions of coherence and uniformity in multi-text codices, this project switches our frame of reference from the hermeneutic to the temporal. How do books physically embody the gaps, ruptures, and blank spaces in chronological time? How do they accumulate and juxtapose different temporal logics? What is specific to the medieval practice of compilatio that may shed light on how we in the present understand and represent the vagaries of being-in-time?
The aim of this project is firstly to provide a codicological overview of French-language manuscripts produced c. 1250-c. 1350 that contain a narrative of Troy. What kind of texts do they accompany in the book? How do verse and prose interact in the experience of these books? How is the Trojan legend put into dialogue with other traditions, be they historical, literary, philosophical, or ‘scientific’? How does the vernacular context differ from the Latinate one? Building on this quantitative data, a secondary aim is to reflect on how taking the physical object – the manuscript book – as our focus of study affects how we approach Trojan material in the Middle Ages. How do image, word and parchment work together to produce an experience of the past that cannot be reduced to the immaterial, authorial 'text'? How did readers engage with – both touching and being touched by – Trojan history as embodied by the book?
This project will therefore unfold in close collaboration with RA 3 "Future Perfect" of EXC Temporal Communities. In particular, the RA 3 project, "Premodern Anthologies and the Selective Fictions of Tradition-Building", will provide an essential space to share ideas and compare results. It is hoped that "Making Sense/Making Time" can contribute to research into how 'forms of polychronicity' can be established not just through literature, but in the material constellations that literature exists through.
Henry Ravenhall received his PhD (French) in July 2020 from King's College London (funded by the European Research Council). His thesis, "The Anachronic Manuscript: Voices of the Past in BnF fr. 17177", examines a thirteenth-century French manuscript at the intersection of temporality and materiality. From April 2020 to August 2020, he worked as a Research Associate for The Values of French project at King's College London, producing a digital edition of the Orient II and Alexander sections of the Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César. He is interested in theoretical approaches to medieval French literature, especially when this relates to manuscript materiality. Other interests include: the distinction between history and fiction in the Middle Ages; testimony and trauma; New Philology; compilatio; medieval reception of the ancient past; ecocriticism; emotion and affect; the philosophy of Jacques Rancière; and the digital humanities. For a full list of publications and presentations, see his website.