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M.N. and the Yorkshire circle: the motivation behind the translation of the Mirouer des simples ames in fourteenth-century England

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In 1999, Geneviève Hasenohr announced the discovery of a fragment of Marguerite Porete's Mirouer des Simples Ames, a work condemned by the Church at the University of Paris in 1310, hidden in a manuscript at the Bibliothèque municipale in Valenciennes.

In 1999, Geneviève Hasenohr announced the discovery of a fragment of Marguerite Porete's Mirouer des Simples Ames, a work condemned by the Church at the University of Paris in 1310, hidden in a manuscript at the Bibliothèque municipale in Valenciennes. The fragment corresponds with roughly two chapters in the only extant French version of the manuscript (Chantilly, Musée Condé MS F XIV 26), and when compared with other editions of the Mirouer, it appears to be composed in what might have been Marguerite Porete's native dialect. The discovery changed scholars' perceptions of the weight of the various versions and translations - the Chantilly manuscript had been used previously to settle any questions of discrepancy, but now it appears that the Continental Latin and Middle English translations should be the arbiters. This discovery has elevated the Middle English editions, and has made the question of the translator's identity - he is known only by his initials M.N. - and background more imperative to an understanding of why a work with such a dubious history would be translated and harbored by English Carthusians in the century that followed its condemnation. The only candidate suggested for translator of the Mirouer has been Michael Northburgh (d. 1361), the Bishop of London and co-founder of the London Charterhouse, where two of the three remaining copies of the translation were once owned, but the language of the text and Northburgh's own position and interests do not fit this suggestion. My argument is that the content of the book, the method of its translation, its selection as a work for a Latin-illiterate audience, all fit within the interests of a circle of writers based in Yorkshire at the end of the fourteenth century. By beginning among the Yorkshire circle, and widening the search to include writers with a non-traditional contemplative audience, one that exists outside of the cloister - writers like Walter Hilton, the anonymous authors of the Cloud of Unknowing and the Chastising of God's Children, and Nicholas Love - we may have a better chance of locating and understanding the motives of the Middle English translator of the Mirouer.

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2011

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The moral sense of touch: teaching tactile values in late medieval England

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“The Moral Sense of Touch: Teaching Tactile Values in Late Medieval England” investigates the intersections of popular science and religious education in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the project draws together a range of textual

“The Moral Sense of Touch: Teaching Tactile Values in Late Medieval England” investigates the intersections of popular science and religious education in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the project draws together a range of textual artifacts, from scientific manuals to private prayerbooks, to reconstruct the vast network of touch supporting the late medieval moral syllabus. I argue that new scientific understandings of the five senses, and specifically the sense of touch, had a great impact on the processes, procedures, and parlances of vernacular religious instruction in late medieval England. The study is organized around a set of object lessons that realize the materiality of devotional reading practices. Over the course of investigation, I explore how the tactile values reinforcing medieval conceptions of pleasure and pain were cultivated to educate and, in effect, socialize popular reading audiences. Writing techniques and technologies—literary forms, manuscript designs, illustration programs—shaped the reception and user-experience of devotional texts. Focusing on the cultural life of the sense of touch, “The Moral Sense of Touch” provides a new context for a sense based study of historical literatures, one that recovers the centrality of touch in cognitive, aesthetic, and moral discourses.

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2016