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Charles d'Orléans and His Books- Roundtable (Kalamazoo 2015)
full name / name of organization:
R. D. Perry and Joseph Stadolnik
“Charles d’Orléans and his Books”
For many years, critical engagement with the poetic production of Charles d’Orléans—French duke, English hostage, and bilingual poet—has been far too sparse. Mary-Jo Arn’s publication of Charles’s English works, Fortunes Stabilnes: Charles of Orleans’s English Book of Love (1994) made a compelling case for the importance of the French duke. She showed that Charles was formally innovative (arguably creating the earliest lyric sequence in the English language), well connected (knowing surviving members of the Chaucer family as well as important English nobility), and an important bridge between the English and French works of the 14th and 15th centuries (having been influenced by Chaucer, Gower, and Machaut; and influencing Richard Roos and René d’Anjou). Despite its importance, however, Arn’s edition needed to be supplemented by a variety of codicological and archival scholarship, primarily on Charles’s French works, before critics could fully appreciate the breadth of Charles’s achievements and importance. We are now in such a position. The last decade has seen several important publications. Gilbert Ouy’s La librairie des frères captifs (2007) creates an inventory of the libraries of Charles and his brother Jean, duke of Angoulême, newly bringing to light around sixty surviving manuscripts and a poem by Charles, the Canticum Amoris. Arn’s The Poet’s Notebook (2008) crucially revised long-held assumptions about Charles’s poetry and its manuscripts by demonstrating how the French codex of Charles’s work, Bibliothèque Nationale MS français 25458, encodes the singular literary and social climate of its production. Finally, Arn and John Fox’s edition of that manuscript, The Poetry of Charles d’Orléans and his Circle: A Critical Edition of BnF ms. fr 25458 gave us a clearer picture of Charles’s French works. We must now return to the English works and place them in their proper context.
This roundtable seeks to extend the work on the textual and material contexts in which this poetry first lived and still lives. Papers could address anything from what Charles’s creation of a French poetic circle might tell us about his engagement with his English “jailors,” to what a poet’s translation of his own work between two languages would mean, to how Charles disseminated French poets in an English context and English poets in a French context. Papers might also use developments in the study of Charles d’Orléans to investigate the concerns of the wider field of fifteenth-century studies, providing new insights into the history of the lyric, late-medieval traffic in books, cultural transaction across the English Channel, and poetic coteries. By understanding Charles’s “books” expansively, we hope ultimately to use his material contexts to understand the relationship between the private and the public, the personal and the political, and the individual poet and a national tradition, even as Charles’s particular situation troubles these binaries.