// Project Aims

Geographies of Orthodoxy engages with questions that promise to reshape our understanding of late medieval vernacular and religious textual culture through detailed codicological and textual analysis of the entire manuscript corpus of English pseudo-Bonaventuran Lives of Christ, a tradition that seemingly defined orthodox literary models of Christological representation between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The project will excavate the actual reading practices of patrons and readers of vernacular pseudo-Bonaventuran texts and will yield wide ranging hard evidence of continuity and change in the behaviour and structure of textual communities from the later Middle Ages to the Reformation.

Its objectives are:

  • To give a more nuanced account of the large-scale production and reception of religious literature in this period than has hitherto been possible. Such investigations will be published through ‘cultural mapping exercises’, analyses of the circumstances of the production, reception and ownership contexts of the corpus, and will be available through the project’s wiki. The cultural mapping exercises are designed to represent (in easily digestible forms) some of the applications to which the codicological data may be put. Such exercises will include synchronic and particular studies, including representations of connections between codices or portrayals of reading networks that (where possible) allow one to posit further connections between named readers and owners of the books. Because our analysis takes in an entire corpus, such exercises will also map wider trends within the tradition and provide a quantitative sense of the appeal of these texts, answering more general questions on production, transmission and reading. As with other features of the project’s electronic outputs, wiki technology and ‘weblogs’ will allow the scholarly community to interact with, and to refine and comment on, these exercises.
  • To produce an electronic database that records biobibliographical, codicological and textual analysis relating to the English pseudo-Bonaventuran corpus. This database will render the project’s codicological findings accessible to the scholarly community, and thus open the manuscript corpus to wider critical debate. The project will provide a new kind of general resource, as well as a mass of fresh data, illuminating the extraordinary complex wealth of the period’s textual culture well beyond the pseudo-Bonaventuran materials. This is possible because of the miscellaneous and anthologising nature of many medieval codices, and the database’s rich network of interconnected information (much of it previously untapped) on books, owners, readers, scribes and textual communities. The research outputs, as such, will benefit a broad array of literary scholars, also religious and cultural historians.
  • To write a collaborative monograph that will situate the English pseudo-Bonaventuran tradition within its manuscript and reception contexts and within the volatile and complex socio-political, cultural and theological contexts of the constructions of ‘orthodoxy’ from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. The book will build on the already-established expertise of Ian Johnson with this material, and integrate it into the methodological interests and experience of Kelly, Perry and Thompson in applying anthropological and cultural materialist perspectives to the disciplines of book history.
  • To produce an edited book of essays on religious literary culture by project members and international scholars in the field, including members of the project’s advisory board.
  • To disseminate research outcomes through conference papers and scholarly articles in appropriate periodicals.