"To thenke what was in hir wille": A female reading context for the Findern anthology

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This article argues that close, critical attention to the selection, organization, and layout of texts in the Findern Anthology (Cambridge University Library MS Ff 1.6) provides evidence that the manuscript's readers and compilers exercised interpretive control over its construction. The activity of female scribes in compiling the manuscript indicates that a literary culture of female readers may have driven the construction of the manuscript. Through analysis of texts by Gower, Chaucer, and Richard Roos, this article demonstrates that substantial alterations in the format indicate close critical readings of the texts by interested female readers who interpreted the court writing tradition through their more local experience and perspective. Far from being a merely "provincial" manuscript, however, this analysis reveals subtle interventions in the texts transmitted, suggesting a sophisticated reading of the court tradition that draws out crucial thematic inter-relationships. Foremost among the manuscript's major themes are the power of female eloquence (as demonstrated in Gower's story of Peronelle and Richard Roos' translation of Alain Chartier's La Belle Dame Sans Mercy) and the tension between female choice and social compulsion (as demonstrated in Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls and Gower's story of Rosiphelee).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-744
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Findern anthology
  • Middle english poeting
  • Women's writing


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