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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.
David Rollo is associate professor of English at the University of Southern California.
Medieval Cultures Series, volume 25
Translation Inquiries: University of Minnesota Press