The French Journal of Medieval English Studies / Bulletin des Anglicistes Médiévistes (BAM) is seeking submissions for a special issue focusing on the notion of “revolution”. The papers, written in French or English, should be submitted to Nolwena Monnier by October 30, 2018 (see more information below). Authors who wish to submit a paper are advised to get in touch and submit a title with a brief description of content as soon as convenient.
The papers will be published in issue 93 of BAM. The text below offers suggestions for how this topic can be interpreted, but contributions on other relevant topics are welcome.
The word “revolution” does not appear in English before the 14th century. The word is borrowed from French revolucion, derived from the Latin revolvere. In medieval Latin the meaning of revolutio becomes both scientific and religious as it describes the movement of celestial bodies and the transmigration of souls (metempsychosis). The first known occurrence of the word “revolution” to describe an abrupt change in social order dates from 1450. However, that use does not become common until the end of the 17th century.
It would seem, then, that the use of the word “revolution” in a medieval context is anachronistic. However, one may argue that some confrontations leading to major changes in the established social or political order of Medieval England can indeed be called revolutions or revolutionary a posteriori. Could the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt be seen as a failed revolution?
As regards religion, the topic brings to mind the reformatio: one can think for instance of the various reformist ideas within the Church which, between the 11th century and 4th Council of the Lateran (1215), advocates libertas ecclesiae and tries to get rid of corruption. From the 14th century onwards, Lollards also try to bring profound changes to the Church. Some of their ideas, like the translation of the Bible in the vernacular and the end of celibacy for priest, considered heretical then, could be called revolutionary.
Less polemically, “revolution” can also be understood as a renovatio in English culture. The word suggests both an abrupt departure and a return to an initial position, not unlike the concept of renaissance, which has been used to describe all at once an intellectual upheaval, a rejection of the immediate past and the rediscovery of a distant idealized past. This could lead us to re-examine the various “renaissances” of the Middle-Ages: the Northumbrian, the Alfredian or the 12th century renaissance in particular.
Orality and literacy also undergo massive changes in the Middle-Ages. Some historians describe the multiplication of texts between the 11th and the 14th century as the “first revolution of writing” and of course the invention of printing at the very end of the medieval period constitutes a revolutionary event, which can be studied from a cultural and/or technological standpoint. Before that, the professionalization of the production process of manuscripts can also be considered a great upheaval, even if it was more gradual.
As regards language, one can consider the various foreign influences on the English language throughout the period: was the “natural” evolution of English disrupted by historical events? Can the return to the vernacular in literature be considered a renaissance? Can the shift from a flexional language with a relatively free word order to a more and more isolating one with a fixed word order be called a revolution?
One can also think of the end of anonymity for authors, which signals an important change in how the past and its canonical authors are considered, as well as a form of liberation.
As well as revolutions that did take place, revolutions that might have been are also worth considering, especially those that did occur in other European countries: how come English authors favoured verse over prose in narratives for much longer than some of their neighbours, for instance?
The papers, written in English or in French, must be sent before October 30, 2018 to Nolwena Monnier: email@example.com.
The BAM uses double-blind peer review. The stylesheet to be used may be found on our website: http:/ /amaes.org/publications-de-l-amaes/notre-journal-bam/soumettre-un-article/