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Truth and Tales: Cultural Mobility and Medieval Media.

Somerset, Fiona, and Nicholas Watson, eds, Truth and Tales: Cultural Mobility and Medieval Media (Interventions: New Studies in Medieval Culture), Columbus, Ohio State University Press, 2015; hardback; pp. 360; R.R.P. US$69.95; ISBN 9780814212714.

Truth and Tales: Cultural Mobility and Medieval Media was created out of a series of papers presented at the Canada Chaucer Seminar at the Centre for Medieval Studies in Toronto in honour of esteemed middle Middle English literature scholar Richard Firth Green. Edited by Fiona Somerset and Nicholas Watson, it presents to the reader the complex tapestry of communications during the medieval period. Illustrating the intersection of oral and written stories from both high and low cultures, it proposes to understand 'truth' and 'tale', nowadays understood mostly as the difference between folk tales and 'real' stories.

Broken into parts, with Part 1 devoted to 'The Truth of Tales 1', Part 2 'Repetition and Continuity: The Claims of History', Part 3 'Cultural Divides and Their Common Ground', parts 4 and 5 'New Media and the Literate Laity' and 'The Truth of Tales 2' respectively, the book collects papers together based around thematic clusters, which allows readers to pursue the contents collectively, or selectively as standalone essays depending on their interest.

Given the calibre of the contributors, it is of no surprise that the book expertly sheds light on how communication networks and various media may have been fashioned during the Middle Ages. In the essay by M. J. Toswell, called 'The Exegesis of Tears in Lambeth Homily 17', the focus is on illustrating the interconnectedness of homily collections from both an oral and written cultural standpoint. In Kathleen E. Kennedy's chapter 'A London Legal Miscellany, Popular Law and Medieval Print Culture', we explore 'Arnold's book', a manuscript of diverse contents that is believed to be the first to be printed on a hand press (p. 223), attesting perhaps to its popularity, or rather, the curiosity surrounding the author and his life as a merchant. The common factor in these two seemingly unconnected pieces of content is the evolution in both our understanding of how communities communicated with media and each other, but also how such practices can be seen to impact upon the idea of 'truth', 'authority', and 'ownership'--an interest of Richard Green to whom the book is dedicated.

Truth and Tales: Cultural Mobility and Medieval Media provides insightful comment on the different media that impacted medieval culture, in a linear and non-linear fashion. As Somerset notes in her introduction, 'we no longer assume [...] that movement and voices change nothing' (p. 3).

SAMAYA BOROM, Monash University

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Title Annotation:Short Notices
Author:Borom, Samaya
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2018
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