Reading in the Wilderness
Private Devotion and Public Performance in Late Medieval England
Drawing on the work of W. J. T. Mitchell, Michael Camille, and others working at the image-text crossroads, Reading in the Wilderness addresses the manuscript’s texts and illustrations to examine connections between reading and performance within the solitary monk’s cell and also outside. Brantley reimagines the medieval codex as a site where the meanings of images and words are performed, both publicly and privately, in the act of reading.
Conference on Christianity and Literature/MLA: CCL Book-of-the-Year Award
“At long last—an in-depth study of the Carthusian Miscellany! Instead of mining the surface of this fascinating manuscript for the occasional visual nugget to illustrate late medieval devotional practices, Jessica Brantley digs deep to illuminate the manuscript itself, significantly extending previous work by art historians, Middle English editors, and students of fifteenth-century religion by focusing on its performative nature and highlighting its theatricality.”
“Jessica Brantley persuasively describes a prevalent medieval practice of performative private reading. Moving beyond previous theories of reception, she analyzes manuscript illustrations as action-seeking cues to the devout or meditative reader. Finding apparently solitary reading experience 'quickened' at every point by its relation to public and communal experience, she stages a vigorous challenge to simplified notions of individuality and community in the later middle ages.”
“In the context of the study of this odd and oddly compelling manuscript Brantley’s reading is interesting and provocative.”