The Well-Traveled Text: Guillaume de Machaut’s La Prise d’Alixandre
Presenter: Elizabeth Voss, University of Virginia
Guillaume de Machaut’s last work, La Prise d’Alixandre (1370) was first appreciated as an objective historical account of the crusade campaign of Pierre de Lusignan. However, it has more recently captured the attention of literary scholars, whose innovative work has allowed for new interpretations of the Prise that challenge its formerly unique historical role. For instance, Sharon Kinoshita’s study of Cyprus as a “zone of connectivity” and Zrinka Stahuljak’s notion of the “fixer” reveal that the Prise is highly concerned with recording intercultural encounters and negotiating complex cultural identities.* Both studies engage with notions of travel as they explore the transmission of information across cultural and confessional boundaries.
Travel also plays an essential role in the circulation and reception of the Prise in its material state, revealing how travel informs the writing and reading process. Travel does not just provide the matière of the text, but frames the encounter between reader and text. The physical traces of various itineraries on the manuscript body, in addition to changes in folio layout, reveal the manuscripts’ inherent fragmentation. This paper will explore how this fragmentation simultaneously reflects movement and encourages a reading travel experience in the single-author anthologies, which contain the only extent copies of the Prise. Although these collections have been appreciated for their stability and unification around the author figure, the visible signs of fragmentation invite us to reconsider these manuscripts as dynamic bodies, traveling texts that integrate reading and writing into the travel experience.
* Sharon Kinoshita, “Noi Siamo Mercatanti Cipriani: How to do things in the Medieval Mediterranean,” Philippe de Mézières and His Age: Piety and Politics in the Fourteenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 2012): 43 and Zrinka Stahuljak, “For a New Politics of Translation in the Medieval Mediterranean,” Medieval Studies Lecture, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 2 Feb. 2012.