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History, Literature, and Medieval Textuality

Author(s): Brian Stock


Source: Yale French Studies, No. 70, Images of Power Medieval History/Discourse/Literature
(1986), pp. 7-17
Published by: Yale University Press
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BRIAN STOCK

History,Literature,and Medieval
Textuality

Thereexistsatpresent,as therehas notforsomedecades,thepossibility of


seriouscooperationbetweenthefieldsofhistoryand literature. This hap-
pystateofaffairs has beenbroughtaboutbya numberofcomplementary
forces.Amongintellectualhistorians,positivisticassumptions,where
theyarenotunderattack,appearto be dyinga naturaldeath.Accounting
forwhatactuallyhappenedis nowrecognizedto be onlypartofthestory;
theotherpartis therecordofwhatindividualsthought was happening, and
the ways in which theirfeelings,perceptions,and narrativesof events
eitherinfluencedor wereinfluencedby the realitiestheyfaced.Among
criticsand teachersofliterature, one findsa renewedinterestin literary
history,notdefined,as in theperiodbeforenew criticism, as a meresum-
maryof literary, historical,or biographicalinformation, but,underthe
influenceoflinguistics,anthropology, and semiotics,as a recognition of
parallelmodes of interpretation. "The historicalperspective,"a recent
commentator notes,"enables one to recognizethe transienceofanyin-
whichwill alwaysbe succeededbyotherinterpretations,
terpretation, and
to take as object of reflectionthe series of interpretive
acts by which
traditionsare constitutedand meaningproduced."'
Some of the factorscontributing to this renewedawarenessof the
historicaldimensionhave arisenfromwithinhistoricalresearch,like the
studyof mentalitewithinAnnales, or, althoughit has operatedmore
thetraditionofhermeneutics
diffusely, and social thoughtwhichhas de-
scendedthrough Dilthey,Max Weber,andthecriticaltheoryoftheFrank-
furtSchool.Othercauses lie outsidethefieldofhistory.In general,twen-
tieth-centuryhistoriographyhas hadtoadaptitselffroma culturalclimate
of self-confidenceto one of self-questioning. No less than philosophic
Culler,ThePursuitofSigns:Semiotics,Literature,
1. Jonathan Deconstruction
(Ithaca:
CornellUniv.Press,1981),13.
7

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8 Yale FrenchStudies
idealism,thepurehistoryofideasbelongedto a periodofsocial andpoliti-
cal consensus.Today'sintellectualuniverseis pluralistic, and as a conse-
quence historicalrelativismhas once again become fashionable.Yet a
considerable gapexistsbetweenwhatintellectualhistorianswouldliketo
be doingandwhatin facttheyhavebeentrainedto do. To borrowHeideg-
ger'sterms,mostareinstructed howtodealwith"documents"ratherthan
with "works,"thatis, withrepositories ofinformation ratherthanwith
structured texts.Competentto handle the factualside of historicalre-
search,and,untilrecently,securein theirassumptionsabouthistorical
objectivity,theyhave paid littleattentionto aspectsofculturalanalysis
suchas langueandparole,synchrony and diachrony, orhistoireandrecit.
As Hans Kellnerhas remarked, at present,despitean interestin theoral
and thewritten,"languagestudiesseem to have no clearsingleplace in
historicalmethodology."2
Otherfactorscontributing to thepotentialcooperationofhistoryand
literaturehave arisenfromrecenttrendsin literarycriticism.An impor-
tantprincipleof structuralism, continuallyreiteratedby Barthes,is the
separationofthe author,and,as a byproduct, ofthe author'sintentions,
fromthetextualproductofwriting, which,as a result,is seentohavea set
ofdepersonalized relationswithothertexts.All texts,includinghistorical
texts,are therebyplaced on an equal footing.One of the statedtasksof
semioticsis thedescriptionoftherangeofmeaningderivablefromliterary
worksbycriticsand readersin whichthereis no distinction betweenthe
historicalandliteraryappreciation ofsigns.Again,Jauss'snotionof"hori-
zonsofexpectation"impliesa seriousprogramme ofliteraryhistory, as,in
a differentway,does thestudyofintertextuality, which,like Rezeptions-
dsthetik,deniestheautonomyofthetextand suggeststhatsignification
resultsfromtheimpositionofpriorknowledgeuponpresentmeaning.For
Marxistcriticismtheissuesofsubjectversusobjectandofhistoricaldeter-
minationremainprimaryconcerns.Here theproblemis seen as demon-
stratingtherelationship betweena literary workand some aspect,mate-
rialorformal,ofitssocial context.One can evensee in Derrida'srejection
ofFoucault'sstrongemphasisondiscontinuity a return toa typeofsequen-
tialistthinking,since,fordeconstruction to workproperly, one mustas-
sume thatthe act of signifying, which containsits own contradiction,
operatesovertime. "Tout concept,"he writes,criticizingSaussure,"est
en droitet essentiellementinscritdansune chaineou dansun systemea
l'interieurduquel renvoie'a lautre,aux autresconcepts,parle jeu sys-
il
tematiquede differences."3

2. "TriangularAnxieties:The PresentStateofEuropeanIntellectualHistory,"in Do-


minickLaCapraand StevenL. Kaplan,eds.,ModernEuropeanIntellectualHistory:Reap-
(Ithaca:CornellUniv.Press,1982),114.
praisalsand New Perspectives
3. "La differance,"
in Margesde la philosophie(Paris:Minuit,1972),11.

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BRIAN STOCK 9
The studyoftheMiddleAgeshas played,andshouldcontinuetoplay,
an important rolein thisdevelopment. Medievalistshavemadeamongthe
mostlastingcontributions to the studyofmentalit6:one thinksof its
inventors, Bloch and Febvre,as well as Paul Alphandery, and,morere-
cently,JacquesLe Goff,EmmanuelLe RoyLadurie,JeanDelumeau,and,
above all, GeorgesDuby. On the literaryside,it is worthrecallingthat
figuresas influentialas E. R. Curtius,Erich Auerbach,and Mikhail
Bakhtinall spenta partoftheircareersin medievalresearch.
These are directdebts;in addition,thereare indirectrelationships,
oftenundiscussed,betweenrecenttrendsin intellectualhistoryand re-
vivals of interestin medievalculture.The contemporary rethinkingof
anthropology, literarycriticism,and thehistoryofideasis in factpartofa
moregeneralrebirthof the fieldof languageand culture,involving,in
France,structuralism and poststructuralism, in England,the theoretical
implicationsofWittgenstein and Austin,and,in Germany,to thedegree
thattheyarelinguistic,theissuesraisedbyGadamerand Habermas.The
commongroundof these diverseapproachesis textuality:withoutthis
pointof contact,forinstance,the recentdebatebetweenFoucaultand
Derridamakesno sense.Ifone is allowedtogivea historicaldimensionto
thelinguisticconcernsraisedby such movementsand authors,thenthe
naturalstarting pointis theperiodin whichEuropebecomesa societyof
texts.This is theMiddleAges.To putthematteranotherway:ifwe areto
increaseour understanding of how, let us say, competenceand perfor-
manceworkin contemporary society,we mustreturn forat leasta chapter
ofthe storyto the momentin timeat whichtextsbecamerecognizable
forcesin historicaldevelopment. ForthestudentoftheMiddleAgesthere
is a certainironyin all this. Paradoxically,if he wishes to understand
medievalculture,to thedegreethatit is possible,on its own terms,he is
obligedto adoptmethodswhichare medievalin origin,but whichhave
onlybeenrediscovered byrecentinvestigations in linguistics,
philosophy,
anthropology, and psychoanalysis,disciplineswhich are unconcerned
withthemedievalepochand as a ruleahistoricalin nature.
Understanding how a textuallyorientedsocietycame intobeingpre-
supposesa morebasicchronology ofthegrowthanddevelopment ofmedi-
eval literacy.4In generaltermsone can pose theproblemas follows.Ifwe
takeas ourpointofdeparture theadmittedly arbitrarydateoftheyearA.D.

4. Fora broadersurveyoftheseproblems, see mystudy,TheImplicationsofLiteracy:


Written Languageand Models of Interpretation in the Eleventhand TwelfthCenturies
(Princeton:
Princeton Univ.Press,1983),esp.ch. 1.A usefulreviewofEnglishevidenceis M.
C. Clanchy,FromMemoryto WrittenRecord:England,1066-1307 (Cambridge, Mass.:
HarvardUniv.Press,1979).Important recentstudiesoftheliterary aspectsofthequestion
includeF. H. Bduml,"Varietiesand Consequencesof MedievalLiteracyand Illiteracy,"
Speculum55 (1980),237-65; B. Cerquiglini,La parolemedievale:Discours,syntaxe,texte
(Paris:Minuit,1981),and P. Zumthor,Introduction a la poesie orale (Paris:Seuil, 1983).

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10 Yale FrenchStudies
1000,thenit is arguablethattherewerebothoraland writtentraditions
operatingsimultaneouslyin Europeanculture,sometimesworkingto-
gether,sometimesworkingin separatespheresof thoughtand action.
However,fromaboutthesecondhalfoftheeleventhcentury, a widespread
transformation beganto takeplace.Oraltraditions didnotsimplydecline,
althoughthathappenedto some degreeas theforceofthewrittenword
becameprogressively stronger.Instead,theyrealignedthemselvesso as to
be able tofunctionin relationto a referencesystembasedupontexts.As a
consequence,aboutthistime,a new hermeneuticenvironment emerged
in WesternEurope.Its characteristic featurewas thatit was at once both
oral and written.The performative functionsremainedverbaland indi-
vidualistic,as theyhad alwaysbeen.Buttheywereincreasingly boundto
textualformswhichimpliedsharedvalues, assumptions,and modes of
thought.
The texts,of course,werenot alwayswrittendown,but theywere
invariablyunderstoodas iftheywere.Meaning,therefore, gravitatedto-
wardsreference as opposedto meresense,and whathad alone been ex-
pressedin gestures,rituals,and physicalsymbolsnow becameembedded
in a complexset of interpretive structuresinvolvingscripts,notations,
grammars, andlexica.The spokenandthewrittenweredrawnintocloser
interdependence than theyhad been at any time since the end of the
ancientworld.The new relationship was nottransitory: it was,to borrow
Braudel'sphrase,a changeoflongduration, notonlyannouncingthebirth
ofthe Europeanvernacularlanguages,but also givingrise to a groupof
problemsin the area of languageand culturewhichwereto have a long
afterlife.
Amongthesewerethequestionofpopularversuslearnedtradi-
tion,theissue ofallegory,withits dual interestin innerand outermean-
ing,and,via such thinkersas Abelard,thedivisionoflangue andparole,
togetherwith the conventionalaspects of linguisticcommunication
whichWittgenstein in his laterworkcalled formsof life.The birthof
textualityalso meanttheinventionofproducers andconsumersofculture,
a transformation, so to speak,ofthesystemofexchangeandcommunica-
tion,and,via writtentranscription, theidea ofan abstractreadingpublic
thatthenceforward acted as a referential
basis forthe interpretation of
worksofliteratureand philosophy,and,throughintertextuality, forthe
interpretation ofexperience.
Texts,textuality, and textualcultureimmediatelyraisetheissue of
powerin society.Ifa newmeansofcommunication makesitsappearance,
whoareitspatrons?Ifnewknowledgeis produced,who controlsit andfor
whatends?
The answertothesequestionsis notas simpleas wouldfirstappear.In
general,earlystudentsofthesociologyofknowledgesuch as KarlMann-
heim preferred a macrosociologicalapproach,in which an attemptwas

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BRIAN STOCK 11

madeto matchthecontentofideologicalsystemswiththeeconomicand
socialbackground oftheparticipants. The weaknessesofthismethodhave
oftenenoughbeen demonstrated, both by the intellectualleftand the
right,to need no furtheremphasishere. The successorsto the early
Soziologiedes Wissenssuch as LucienGoldmann'sgeneticstructuralism
inevitablyabandonedthe loftyideal of describingsociologicaltotalities
and focusedinsteadon themoremanageabledimensionofsocial groups
whoseactualproductions andliterary relationscouldbe empirically stud-
ied.The adventofstructuralism, it is arguable,bothabettedand confused
thisdevelopment. On thepositiveside,structuralism emphatically desub-
jectivizedtextualexperience,a necessaryprerequisite forthecomparison
of internalelementsin textsand betweentexts.But, by demotingau-
thorship, structuralismalso weakenedthetentatively establishedconnec-
tionsbetweenliteratureand societyand took the entirediscussionone
stepawayfromthelivingcontextofutterance, discourse,and action.The
popularity ofstructuralism was perhapsto some degreean outletforthe
frustration manyintellectualsfeltoverthefailureofa MarxistorWeberian
sociologyof knowledge.Its leadingproponentsseemed to say: if social
relationscannotbe revealedthroughtexts,thenwe will studytheproper-
ties oftextsfortheirown sake. In Derrida,thisphilosophyhas virtually
closedthedooron social analysisand restricted itselfto scholasticexer-
cises involvingwhat are essentiallyalternativetypesof interpretation.
The riseandfallofthesociologyofknowledgeposedtwoproblemsfor
medievalists.The olderapproaches,thosewhichin factprecededMann-
heim in Marx and succeededhim in Lukaics,dependedupon an over-
simplified viewoftheMiddleAgesin whichthepeasants,thebourgeoisie,
and thearistocracy wereportrayed as havingwatertight mentalitiesissu-
ingin specificliterary
orartisticgenres.Buttherewas an evenmorebasic
problem.In pushingthedoctrineofWeltanschauungslehre backintothe
MiddleAges,studentsoftenmadetheassumptionthat"medievalsociety"
corresponded to whatwe morefamiliarly knowas "industrialsociety"or
"Americansociety."It is arguablethatthiswas stretching an ideal typea
littletoo far.Therewereofcoursemedievalgroups,and theywerebound
byethnic,linguistic,andprotonational ties.Butitis questionablewhether
we shoulddescribethisas a societyin thenormal,post-Kantian sense of
theterm,as opposed,let us say,to a groupofsocieties,in whichimplicit
and explicitboundariescrisscrossedand overlappedin numerousun-
modernways.And it followsthat,iftherewas no macrosociety, a mac-
rosociology ofknowledgecannotbe muchuse. Accordingly, we mayalso
thinkoftheearlysociologyofknowledgeas havingfailedin twoways.An
inadequatecharacterization ofmedievalsocietywas introducedintothe
modernconsciousness,whereit still appearsin textbooksand encyclo-
pedias.Worse,medievalistsattemptedforsome decadesto applya meth-

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12 Yale FrenchStudies
odologywhichwas inherently inappropriate forinvestigating thesociety
theyhad setthemselvesto study.Witha senseofrelief,a youngergenera-
tion turnedaway fromsuch global constructions towardmore specific
disciplinessuch as folklore,anthropology, and hermeneutics.
The presentcanbe describedas a timeofexperimentation. Therearea
numberofmethodologies in thefield,butno singleonepredominates. My
own approachis to investigatethe relationshipsbetweenindividualsin
groupsthatareactuallyusingtextsforliterary and social purposes,while
at thesame timepayingclose attentionto thehistoricalcontextoftheir
actionsand to thewiderconsequences.My pointofdeparture is Weber's
notionofsubjectively meaningful social action,to whichI haveaddedthe
contemporary concernfornot confusingintersubjectivity and intertex-
tuality.The resultis the analysisofwhatI call "textualcommunities,"
whichare in facttypesofmicrosocietiesorganizedaroundthe common
understanding ofa text.The problematiquecan be putas follows.The rise
ofa moreliteratesocietyin theeleventhcenturyautomatically increased
thenumberofauthors,readers,andcopiersoftextseverywhere in Europe,
and,as a consequence,thenumberofpersonsactivelyengagedin thestudy
oftextsfortheultimatepurposeofchangingthebehavioroftheindividual
orthegroup.This,in nuce,was therationalebehindmuchreformist and
some orthodoxreligiousagitation,to say nothingofcommunalassocia-
tionsandguilds.Suchtextualcommunities werenotentirely composedof
literates.The minimumrequirement was justone literate,theinterpres,
whounderstood a setoftextsandwas able topass his messageon verbally
toothers.Bya processofabsorption andreflection,thebehavioralnormsof
thegroup'sothermemberswereeventuallyaltered.The mannerin which
theindividualsbehavedtowardeach otherand themannerin whichthe
grouplookedupon thoseit consideredto be outsiderswerederivedfrom
the attitudesformedduringthe periodof initiationand education.The
unletteredor semiletteredmemberstherebyconceptualizeda link be-
tweentextualityand rationalitywhich theymay not have understood
fullyorexpressedin a literatefashion.Thus,whilethebasisoftheiraction
was textual,itwas notalwaysrecognizedas such,and,as iftodisguisethe
fact,meaningful actionstillrequireda highdegreeofverbalization. Indi-
vidualsbelongingto such communities,in myview,existedin a sortof
halfwayhouse betweenliteracyandnonliteracy. Theyaretypicalofliter-
acy'sdoublefunctionthroughout earlymodernhistoryas well perhapsas
incontemporary oralsocietiesexperiencing westerneducationforthefirst
time.
Let us look brieflyat an example:the Waldensians.There are two
differentbutcomplementary accountsoftheroleofliteracyintheoriginof
theWaldensiansect, which arose in Lyonsin the 1170s. The earlierand
lessreliableofthemis theanonymouschronicleofLaonfortheyears1173

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BRIAN STOCK 13
to 1178.5The lateris a chapterin theunfinished De SeptemDonis Spiritus
Sanctusof the Dominican inquisitor,Etiennede Bourbon,who died in
Lyonsin 1262.6Etienne'sversionhas theadvantageofreflecting personal
interviews withtwo priestswho actedrespectively as copyistand trans-
latorforthe sect's acknowledgedfounder,a rich moneylendernamed
Valdes.
The storyofWaldensianoriginsin theLaon chronicleis consideredby
mosthistoriansto consistof a littlefactand a lot offiction.7Briefly, it
recountshow Valdes,inspiredby a publicrecitalofthelifeofSt. Alexis,
gaveawayhis moneyandproperty, lefthis wifeandtwodaughters, began
toperform actsofpubliccharity, and eventuallyadopteda lifeofrigorous
povertyand itinerantpreaching.Like Alexis he was convertedat home:
there,thechronicler states,he hadinvitedthewandering singerin orderto
learnmoreaboutthelegendary youthwhoachievedsalvationafterunder-
goingexile,penance,and self-abnegation. The followingmorningValdes
wentto thelocal seminary,seeking,we aretold,counselforhis soul and
askingof the local masterofbiblicalstudieswhichway of approaching
Godwas "mostsureandperfect. " He was told:"Ifyouwouldbeperfect, go
and sell all thatyou have."8 Etiennede Bourbondoes not repeatthis
anecdote,butheis moreemphaticon theroleplayedbyliteracyin Valdes's
spiritualawakening.Valdes,he relates,althoughnotveryliteratehimself,
nonethelessdesireda deeperunderstanding ofthetextofthegospels.He

5. MGH SS, vol. 6, 447-49.


6. Anecdoteshistoriques,legendeset apologuestiresdu recueilineditd'Etiennede
Bourbon,dominicaindu XIIIe siecle,ed. A. Lecoyde la Marche(Paris:LibrairieRenouard,
1887),c. 342,290-93.
7. The mostskepticalrecentaccountis K.-V.Selge,Die erstenWaldenserL Unter-
suchungund Darstellung(Berlin:De Gruyter, 1967),227-42. Fora criticaldiscussionof
Selge'sviews,see M. Lambert, MedievalHeresy.PopularMovementsfromBogomilto Hus
(London:E. Arnold,1976),AppendixC, 352-55, withwhichI concur.
8. ChroniconLaudunensis,anno 1173,447,34-40:
Is quadamdie dominicacumdeclinassetad turbam, quamanteioculatorem viderat
congregatam, ex verbisipsiusconpungtus fuit,et eum ad domumsuam deducens,
intenteeumaudirecuravit.Fuitenimlocusnarracionis eius,qualiterbeatusAlexis
in domopatrissui beatofinequievit.Factomane,civismemoratusad scolas the-
ologie consiliumanime sue quesiturusproperavit; et de multismodis eundiad
Deum edoctus,quesivita magistro, que via aliisomnibuscercioressetatqueperfec-
cior.Cui magisterdominicamsentenciamproposuit:"Si vis esse perfectus, vadeet
vendeomniaque abes," etc. [On a certainSundaywhenhe had gonedownto the
crowdgatheredbeforethejongleur,he feltremorseat his words,and leadinghim
awayto his home,tookcareto hearhimoutattentively. Fortherewas a passageof
his,howblessedAlexisreposedin a blesseddeathin hisfather's home.Whenmorn-
ing came,the said townsmanhurriedto the schoolsof theologyto seek out the
counselofhis soul; andwhenhe hadbeeninstructed concerning themanywaysof
goingto God,he askedtheteacherwhichwaywas morecertainandperfect thanall
the others.The teacherexpoundedthe Lord'ssayingto him: "Ifyou wish to be
perfect,go andsell all thatyouhave,"etc.]TranslatedbyJohnGallucci.

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14 Yale FrenchStudies
made contactwithtwo priests:theone, StephenofAnse,translatedpas-
sages of the Bible,while the other,BernardYdros,acted as his scribe.
Valdesthereby acquiredvernaculartranscripts ofmanybooksoftheBible,
together withtheauctoritatessanctorum.These,Etienneadds,he studied
in detail,makingthemthebasis forasceticismand innerperfection.9
Ifreadtogether, thetwo accountstellus muchaboutthepreciserole
ofliteracyin thesect'sformation and organization.Therearein factthree
stagesin themakingofthefinaltextualcommunity:
1. Purelyoralcontact,either,as the Laon chroniclesuggests,witha
jongleur,or,as Etiennede Bourbonstates,whenValdesheardthegospel
(audiensevangelia).
2. The scola theologie:intheLaonversion,Valdeschiefly seeksadvice
forhis soul (consiliumanime); in Etienne,he orderssystematictransla-
tionsoftheBiblein thevernacular(inromano,in vulgari).
3. Studyofvernaculartexts;commitment tomemory;renunciation of
worldlygoods and activities;and preachingby Valdes or his delegates,
usuallyin public.
Perhapsthe most remarkableagreementbetweenthe two versions
arisesfromthe factthat neitherValdes nor his followersappearto be
literatein the normalmedievalsense ofunderstanding Latin.The Laon
chroniclemakesmentionofonlyoral-auralcontactwithbothvernacular
and Latinliteracy.Valdes,it states,wantedto hearthe jongleur(audire
curavit);he was fascinatedbythelocus narracionis;andhe beggedadvice
fromthe local master,seeking,it would appear,not doctrinebut a via
cercioratque perfeccior.Etiennede Bourbonpresentsa more nuanced
view,coloredperhapsbyhis owninterestin exegesisandpreaching. In his
versionthe key sentenceis: (Valdes)audiens evangelia,cum non esset
multumlitteratus,curiosusintelligerequid dicerent,fecitpactumcum
dictissacerdotibus,alteriut transferretei in vulgari,alteriut scriberet
que ille dictaret,quod fecerunt.Valdes,in otherwords,knowinglittle

9. Anecdoteshistoriques, c. 342,291: "Quidamdivesrebusin dictaurbe,dictusWal-


densis,audiensevangelia,cum non esset multumlitteratus, curiosusintelligerequid di-
cerent,fecitpactumcum dictissacerdotibus(i.e. Bernardus Ydruset Stephanusde Ansa),
alteriut transferret
ei in vulgari,alteriut scriberet
que ille dictaret,
quodfecerunt; similiter
multoslibrosBiblieetauctoritates sanctorum multaspertituloscongretatas, quassentencias
appellabant,Que cum dictuscivis sepe legeretet cordetenusfirmaret, proposuitservare
perfectionem evangelicam utapostoliservaverant." [Acertainwealthymaninthetown,who
was calledValdes,uponhearingthegospel,sincehe was notgreatly skilledin (Latin)letters
butwas desirousto understand whatthebiblicaltextssaid,made an agreement withthe
priests(i.e.,Bernard
YdrosandStephenofAnse),according towhichtheonewas totranslate
forhimintothevernacular whiletheotherwas tocopywhatwas said.Theydidthisbothfor
manybooksoftheBibleand formanyoftheauthoritative statementsofthesaints,which
werecollectedaccordingto titleand calledmaxims.The townsman(i.e.,Valdes)readand
rereadtheseoftenandmakethemas secureas he couldin hismind,sinceit was hiswishto
adhereto evangelicalperfection as had theapostles.]Editors'translation.

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BRIAN STOCK 15
Latin,andyetwishingtopenetratetheScripture's innermeaning,ordered
translations. The desireforinterpretation, and,ultimately, fora new ver-
naculartext,was notimpededbyilliteracybutactuallyinspiredbyit.The
interpretivefunctionresultednotfromcomprehension butfroma lack of
it,notfromcontinuitybut fromperceiveddiscontinuity. Linguisticdis-
junctionbroughtabouttheproductionofa new text,one which,Etienne
notes,Valdes read,reread,and internalized(Que cum dictus civis sepe
legeretetcordetenus firmaret ... ). He andhisfollowerssoldtheirworldly
goodsand devotedthemselvesto aidingthepoor.But theyalso formeda
typeof textualcommunityof which Etiennedisapproved, since,in his
words,Valdesofficium apostolorumusurpavit.Ofwhatpreciselydidthis
consist?Quite simplythis:basedupontheagreedmeaningofgospelpas-
sagesamongthemembersofthegroup-whichwe maycall the text,as
opposedto the translation, transcription, or verbalization-theWalden-
sians,as theymaynow appropriately be called,tookto propagating their
ownmessage.Etiennecommentswithevidentdistastethattheypreached
on the citystreetsand in the squares,Valdes attracting bothmen and
womentohis cause through his vividrecreation ofthegospelmessage.He
dared,the Dominicancommentator adds,to send personsofthe lowest
stationto preachin nearbyvillages:men and womenalike,illiterateand
uneducated(idiote et illiterati),theywanderedabout, enteredhomes,
preaching in theopenandevenin churches,everywhere inducingothersto
do thesame.10
"There was a Franciscantouch,"Malcolm Lambertnotes, "in his
religiouspassion,throwingmoneyin the street,rejectingthe usurious
businessmethodsthathadbrought himwealth,"11etc.The observation is
accurateandseemsnaturalin historicalperspective, butitalso raisesa set
of subsidiaryissues involvingintertextuality. Valdes's actionswerenot
isolated,norwas thetextoftheLaon chronicleautonomous.Bothformed
partofa networkofexpectationsin the Lyonspreacher'simmediateau-
dienceandinthemindsofsubsequentfollowers, includingthosewholater
tookonlyan intellectualinterestin theevents.This is not a questionof
sources,thatis, ofpositiveliterary orhistoricalexemplars, althoughthese
maywell exist.Ratherit concernstherelationship ofValdes'sconversion
bothas an experienceand as a reflectivetextto a bodyofunconscious
attitudesandassumptionsin his contemporaries' minds.Itis bothperson-
al and impersonal:it involvesValdes's charismaticauthority, forthe
movementbeginswithhis livingouta textoftheNew Testament,as well
as his audience'sreactionto an alreadycontextualizedset of previous
thoughtsand actions.These beginas earlyas the wanderingpreachers,

10. Ibid.,291-92.
11. MedievalHeresy,op. cit.,68.

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16 Yale FrenchStudies
suchas Bernard ofTiron,RobertofArbrissel, andNorbertofXanten,takea
differentdirectionin thefrustratedGregorians ofthenextgeneration such
as Henryof Lausanne and Arnoldof Brescia,and are finallyreenacted
againstthebackdropofreformed monasticismand theriseofCatharism.
In otherwords,thereis a whole seriesofpreviouslyenactedsituations,
somerecorded, othersunrecorded, all forming partofthecollectivememo-
ryand allowingValdes's actionsto be perceivedas a meaningful pattern
even by thosewho, like Etiennede Bourbon,opposehis ultimategoals.
The patternis both explicit,dramatizedby his leavinghis wealth and
family,and implicit,involvingan alreadyestablishedinnercode through
whichouterbehaviorcan be interpreted. Indeed,it is arguablethatthe
universeofexpectationsthatis normallyassociatedwithintertextuality
was notonly,and perhapsnotchiefly, foundin subsequentreaders,who,
throughthe historyof heresy,were easily able to reenterthe semantic
space in which the originaleventstook place, but insteadin Valdes's
contemporariesand immediate followerswho, although employing
largelyoralmeans,participated in theoriginaltextualexperience.In that
primalmomentofinteraction thediscourseacquireditshistoricaldimen-
sion:formenand womennotonlypresumedto understand theconvert's
actionsbut withoutconsciouslythinkingabout it modelledtheirown
behavioron his.
The analysisof textualcommunities-whethertheseconsistofre-
ligious sects,politicalgroups,social movements,or relationsbetween
authorsand audiences-requiresa combinationofliterary and historical
techniques.Both are cognitiveactivities.The historicalis not isolated
fromtheliterary as factandrepresentation. The twoaspectsofthetextual
experiencearemultidimensional, andtheobjectivity oftheallegedevents
spills overinto the allegedsubjectivity of the records,perceptions, feel-
ings,andobservations. The transcribed experiencealso feedsbackintothe
lived experience:fromthe outset,it is impossibleto separateValdes's
actionsfromtheunconsciousreflection ofearlierlives,texts,andmodels.
One cannot,therefore, likeDerrida,whollyneglecttheworldoutsidethe
text,orreduceittoaspectsofinternality, sincetherecodification ofbehav-
iorbysomeoneconsciouslyrelivingan earliertextconstitutes a newtext,
which,like the contextualizedeventsof Valdes's life,appearsas mean-
ingfulactivitybeforeit is transcribed and passedon in writtenform.Nor
can one alwaysassume,as bothFoucaultand Derridaappearto assume,
thata textwill revealitselfthroughexegesis12ratherthanthroughthe
transformation ofa seriesofcodifiedtextualsignsintorituals,symbolic
behavior,and meaningful culturalactivity.Althoughthemediatedlinks

12. Cf. Edward W. Said, "The Problem of Textuality: Two ExemplaryPositions," Crit-
ical Inquiry 4 (1977-78), 674-75.

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BRIAN STOCK 17
betweenthoughtand actionremaindifficult to explain,theycannotbe
wishedawayordealtwithbya sortoftextualgnosticism.Nor,finally,is
thequestionofpowermerelyone ofexteriorities; we arenotdealingwith
discourseonlyas an impersonal,authoritarian system,whicheffectively
supersedessocial relations.Individuality, and humanwill
intentionality,
also have a place in the spectrumof assignedcauses. True,as Foucault
argues,"relationsofpowerarenotin a positionofexteriority withrespect
to othertypesofrelations,"'13such as economicprocessesandideological
forms.But neitherare theyinevitablyexteriorwithrespectto the indi-
vidualwho, like the earlymedievalsaint,14or,in some cases, the later
heterodoxreformer, concretizesthe latentdiscourse,gives it life,and,
througha livingexample,power,therebycreating,ifonlybriefly, a new
universeofdiscursivespaceinwhichtheoldericons,temples,andformsof
worshipseem,to use Nietzsche'sterms,to radiatelifemostbrilliantly at
themomentoftheirdemise.

13. Histoirede la sexualit61. La Volont6de savoir(Paris:Gallimard,1976),123.


14. See PeterBrown,"The Saint as Exemplarin Late Antiquity,"Representations 2
(1983),1-25.

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