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Glamorous Sorcery

Magic and Literacy in the High Middle Ages

2000
Author:

David Rollo

Glamorous Sorcery

A new picture of the relationship between literacy, social status, and political power in the medieval period.

Through the analysis of magic as a metaphor for the mysterious workings of writing, Glamorous Sorcery sheds light on the power attributed to language in shaping perceptions of the world and conferring status.

An intelligent and subtle book, Glamorous Sorcery is deftly and closely argued. Rollo offers a challenging, but entirely persuasive account of the importance of Latinity and literacy to the production and reception of vernacular texts in the twelfth century. His examination of sorcery and magic as metaphors of the power of language and writing in twelfth-century texts is both compelling and original.

Simon Gaunt, Professor of French, King’s College, London

Through the analysis of magic as a metaphor for the mysterious workings of writing, Glamorous Sorcery sheds light on the power attributed to language in shaping perceptions of the world and conferring status.

David Rollo considers a series of texts produced in England and the Angevin Empire to reassess the value and nature of literacy in the High Middle Ages. He does this by scrutinizing metaphors that represent writing as a form of sorcery or magic in Latin texts and in the work of the Old French writer Benoît de Sainte-Maure. Rollo then examines the ambiguous representation of literacy as a skill that can be exploited as a commodity.

Glamorous Sorcery demonstrates how closely interconnected certain types of vernacular and Latin writing were in this period. Uncovered through a series of illuminating, incisive, and often surprising close readings, these connections give us a new, more complex appraisal of the relationship between literacy, social status, and political power in a time and place in which various languages competed for cultural sovereignty—at a critical juncture in the cultural history of the West.

Glamorous Sorcery

David Rollo is associate professor of English at the University of Southern California.

Glamorous Sorcery

An intelligent and subtle book, Glamorous Sorcery is deftly and closely argued. Rollo offers a challenging, but entirely persuasive account of the importance of Latinity and literacy to the production and reception of vernacular texts in the twelfth century. His examination of sorcery and magic as metaphors of the power of language and writing in twelfth-century texts is both compelling and original.

Simon Gaunt, Professor of French, King’s College, London

The author is well versed in the recent theories of literacy, the problems he approaches are of genuine interest, and the text he chooses to discuss resonate well together.

Journal of English and Germanic Philology

An intelligent and subtle book, Glamorous Sorcery is deftly and closely argued. Rollo offers a challenging, but entirely persuasive account of the importance of Latinity and literacy to the production and reception of vernacular texts in the twelfth century. His examination of sorcery and magic as metaphors of the power of language and writing in twelfth-century texts is both compelling and original.

Simon Gaunt, King’s College, London

Glamorous Sorcery is a persuasive examination of the links between literacy, power, textual production and authorial self-fashioning in the twelfth century. It makes one want to rethink, reread, and react and is itself an example of the literate sorcery David Rollo so convincingly examines.

Arthuriana

Glamorous Sorcery

CONTENTS

Introduction

1. William of Malmesbury: Magic and Prestige
2. Geoffrey of Monmouth and John of Salisbury: Themes of Credulity
3. Benoit de Sainte-Maure: Magic and Vernacular Fiction
4. William FitzStephen, Richard FitzNigel, Benoit de Sainte-Maure: Bureaucratic Power and Fantasies of Literate Control
5. Gerald of Wales: Writing for the Crowned Ass of England

Conclusion
Notes

Index