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Publication Detail
The Manuscript as Property and as Apparatus: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264
  • Publication Type:
    Chapter
  • Authors:
    Gilbert J
  • Publisher:
    British Academy
  • Publication date:
    2023
  • Chapter number:
    4
  • Series:
    Proceedings of the British Academy
  • Editors:
    Kugle K
  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Book title:
    The networked court: transdisciplinary perspectives on late medieval European court cultures
  • Keywords:
    manuscripts, Barad, Karen, Strathern, Marilyn, Actor-Network Theory, Bodley 264, Medieval Low Countries, Alexander romance, Marco Polo
Abstract
This essay analyses the actual and potential value of networks embodied in the luxury manuscript that is Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264, comparing and contrasting in detail the networks displayed in its initial production phase with those inscribed by the material reworkings it underwent as it changed hands over the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Two ‘posthuman’ theoretical frameworks are used, attributing agency in principle to both humans and non-humans. Anthropologist Marilyn Strathern’s account of ‘property’ shows how at each stage, the revised manuscript works both to contain networks and to condense them for new uses. Science studies scholar Karen Barad’s philosophy of ‘agential realism’ helps us to appreciate how radically different an ‘apparatus’ the manuscript becomes with each distinct production phase: not only are its networks reoriented, but the very component parts of its networks are performatively re-formed. The essay argues that these posthuman frameworks allow us to analyse how various kinds of agency and significance are attributed to or withheld from different social groups or non-human actors, thus enabling more accurate analysis of the political networks to which the manuscript’s various stages aspire.
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