Taking as a point of departure one of the medieval ivory caskets depicting the story, the first lecture will consider what it means to read the Châtelaine de Vergy as a text. We will also consider different ways of approaching the text and thinking about its meaning. Is there a message in this story? To what extent extent do factors such as authorship, dating or historical context help us to think about the text's meaning? How far does evidence internal to the text help to illuminate the question of what it is trying to say? In dealing with these questions, the lecture will provide essential background information about how medieval texts were written and circulated as well as dealing with more specific issues to do with exemplarity and textual presentation. The lecture thus aims to introduce students not only to reading medieval texts but also to some of the key reading strategies involved in approaching any text.
The second lecture develops questions raised in Lecture 1 by considering how the way we read a text may be affected by its relationships to other texts or stories. Two key concepts will be used to illustrate this: what Zumthor described as the 'mouvance' of medieval texts and the notion of 'intertextuality'. Taking some examples from the Châtelaine de Vergy we will consider how our understanding of this text might be changed or enriched by paying attention to the intertextual references it makes - particularly as this concerns the kind of love that this story represents. Once again, though the lecture will help students get a better sense of some specifically medieval textual practices and of the Châtelaine de Vergy itself, it also introduces concepts (e.g. intertextuality) that can be reapplied in the reading of texts from other periods.