The Author's Three Bodies: Codicological Intentionalism and the Medieval Text

This article takes issue with medievalists’ curated textual practices that coalesce on codicological intentionalism, that is, the implied position of (re)constructing authorial intention through the study of manuscripts and handwriting. Rather than criticize this practice, the article challenges medievalists to come clean about what they are doing, to acknowledge their methodological vantage point and, thus, to admit to investments in the project of intentionalism. Authorial intention is discussed as a function of the text/context debate; the tripartite division of authorship is analyzed in premodern settings; how codicological intentionalism operates is explained; and, finally, this phenomenon is shown to have parallels in a cognate discourse that has been ignored by literary medievalists, namely, the study of the Synoptic Gospels. Codicological intentionalism balances materialist with historicist certainties and probabilities; it offers a viable methodology for reconciling textual with authorial objectives.

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Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

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