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Questions of Style

Call for papers Perspectives médiévales no. 43

The next issue of Perspectives Médiévales will be devoted to stylistic studies of medieval texts. The focus will be on providing a fresh take on these studies, rather than retracing their history.
The cautious yet indisputable question raised by Robert Martin in his recent article on the place of stylistics in the editing of texts could serve as a prelude to this call for papers:

Is a stylistics section even relevant when editing a text? The answer is a resounding yes: by illustrating the way in which the writing is made to serve the purpose, this type of approach provides an entrance into the very heart of the text. If the editor has a taste for this, they can offer an insightful contribution. (“Une place pour la stylistique dans les éditions de texte” in Fr. Duval, C. Guillot-Barbance, F. Zinelli, dir., Les Introductions linguistiques aux éditions de texte, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2019, p. 323)

This call for papers is therefore intended for medievalists as well as stylisticians with an interest in the Middle Ages.
We would like to reflect the diversity of existing views on stylistic approaches, their advantages or effectiveness in dealing with the central issues of the text, in cases in which it is apparent that the form and meaning are fundamentally linked, even in medieval times, in which stylistics offer “the ideal setting, where literary history can become a history of form, genres, and aesthetic issues, by building on the linguistic analysis of the texts”(Fr. Rastier, “Vers une linguistique des styles”,
L’Information grammaticale, 89, 2001, p. 3). How can stylistic studies of medieval texts help us obtain an interpretation, a meaning and representation of the world presented in the writing?
Four categories of possible lines of research have been identified for theoretical, practical, synchronic and diachronic reflection. These lists are not exhaustive.

History and theory
A historical stylistic approach can be used to analyse the style of medieval texts. A study of treatises on grammar and rhetoric, and possibly dialectics that have marked the medieval period enables a better understanding of the dominant aesthetic in terms of synchrony. A comparison of these different works side by side or with their sources highlights the diachronic developments. By governing and guiding writing towards recommended, suggested, possible or theoretically prohibited areas, with limited or unfettered originality, these treatises provide an understanding of the collective style as supported by a set of common precepts taught and systematised for specific audiences. This should not be limited to the formulation or to the somewhat stereotypical approaches in the texts that it produces. Instead, there should also be a focus on the literary genres that are explicitly or implicitly targeted, and the sometimes necessary transition from Latin to the vernacular language. In this case, there may be reflection on whether this transition is smooth, what adjustments it might require, and whether it is even possible.
Suggested lines of research:

  • study and comparison of treatises on grammar and rhetoric, and even dialectics, considered in terms of diachrony and synchrony;

  • recommended, suggested, or prohibited theoretical areas; dominant or minor aesthetics; the collective style;

  • explicitly or implicitly targeted literary genres;

  • multilingualism, movement between Latin and the vernacular language.

Study of textual variance
Midway between the previous and succeeding lines of research, the development of handwriting trends over time could offer a second focus due to the valuable information this type of study can provide about the intended audience, the scribes, variations in aesthetic trends which complied with specific teachings, writing or pronunciation habits at a given time, plays on words or sounds, or the subtle way in which a text copied into a handwritten collection is influenced by the other texts included in the corpus.
Research of this type could help identify and remove certain filters which distance us from the writer’s initial choices. It could also make the style of the author or genre more accessible, and highlight the different ways in which medieval texts could have been interpreted in medieval times.
Suggested lines of research:

  • handwriting trends (diachrony);

  • writing methods and habits (synchrony);

  • the place and role of the scribe in the creation of style;

  • spellings, orality and vocality;

  • style of the author, genre, collection;

  • variants and reception.

Tools and criteria
Using a pluralistic approach conducive to revealing and bypassing the methodological distortions which seem to prevent any consensus, we would like to feature case studies supported by philology and knowledge of the language, and conducted according to various types of stylistic devices that help to highlight the distinctive forms, which are identifiable based on their qualitative or quantitative prominence in the discourse and, on the other hand, the potential need for specific or targeted tools in order to obtain the desired benefits when examining a medieval text from a stylistic perspective. Although the recognition of styles of genre is more prevalent in research than that of authors, the two are clearly interdependent, since the development of an individual style, felt in the convergence of certain forms which convey the meaning, is fostered by certain genres more than others.
Suggested lines of research:

  • case studies;

  • effective or deficient contemporary stylistic tools;

  • quantitative and qualitative analysis;

  • the style of the genre and author.

Stylistics of poetry and prose
Reflection could also focus on the poetry and prose forms. In terms of poetry, philologists and editors are well aware that the study of metrics and rhyme provides valuable insight, which can be attributed to the author rather than to the scribes, and facilitates identification of the geographic area where the work was produced at a given time in history. However, medievalists tend to overly rely on older studies which should now be updated, confirmed or rejected, supplemented and further clarified in extensive corpora. We also welcome studies – preferably those providing an overview and recontextualisation – on metre, rhyme, breaks in octosyllabic verse, sequences, fixed forms, and rhythmic phenomena involving caesura, breaks or a musical score. In terms of prose, does the comparison of “native” prose and prose which has been adapted from poetry enable a better understanding and analysis? Does the language and its structure have a differentiating effect on the verse and prose to such an extent that it enables the identification not only of the styles, but also the differentiated stylistic elements of the poetry and prose? In terms of diachrony, how have changes in language between the 13th and 15th centuries regulated and redirected writing practices? Did the material format of poetry and prose texts, the reading methods and their reception affect the distinction between the style of the poetry and prose?
Suggested lines of research:

  • material context, conditions in which the text was received and the creation of style;

  • study of metrics, rhyme, fixed forms, line breaks, rhythm, caesura;

  • music manuscripts and interactions between music and prosody;

  • interactions and boundaries between poetry and prose, the study of prose adapted from poetry.

Article drafts (6,000-8,000 characters + bibliography) must be sent to all of the following parties by 1st October 2021:

Articles may be written in French, English or Italian. You can find information about the selection procedure here.

  • 1st October 2021: proposal submission.

  • 1st December 2021: opinion from the journal’s scientific committee.

  • 1st March 2022: article submission to be reviewed by the scientific committee.

  • 1st May 2022: return of the article reviewed by the scientific committee.

  • 1st June 2022: submission of the final version of the article.

  • 1st July 2022: publication of the online issue on the journal’s website.

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