What is A Chronicle? On the Joy of Reading History

What is A Chronicle? On the Joy of Reading History

Lecture by Graeme Dunphy

Given at the University of Leiden on March 15, 2012

Narrative history, that is the shaping and presenting of an agenda-driven narrative of personal, territorial or communal history, has been an important literary activity since ancient times. Chronicles are the principle form of this activity in the Middle Ages. Recent scholarship has hotly debated the definitions of chronicles as a genre, and focussed on the task tracing them back to their authentic, pristine text. However, another way of approaching this is to think of the chronicle as a physical object, a history book, with each new transcription being a new crystalization of the work. This lecture will use chronicle manuscripts and early prints from the Leiden Special Collections to illustrate some of the interest to be derived from such a reader-centered approach.

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