Sonja Drimmer deposited Drimmer, “Failure before Print (the Case of Stephen Scrope),” Viator 46 (2015): 343-72. on Humanities Commons 4 years, 1 month ago
This article proposes that the responsibility for literary failure in a manuscript culture could lie with the manuscript itself. During the later Middle Ages, writers’ acts of composition and presentation established goals by which a form of non-commercial success may be measured, and traces of manuscript owners’ activities in books index the achievement of these goals. Tracking the evidence of three manuscripts of Stephen Scrope’s Epistle of Othea, I examine episodes in which Scrope at- tempted—and ultimately failed—to shape identities or foster relationships between himself and prospective patrons. I argue that disjunctions between the text he composed and the reality of the manuscripts that mediated it moved audiences to respond in ways contrary to the ambitions Scrope inscribed into his work. Far from revealing manuscripts to have been inert objects, what we find is that they had as much generative power in their failures as in their successes.