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Zeiser (2013 Congress)

Sarah Zeiser
(Harvard University)
“The Transmission of the Welsh-Latin ‘Lament’ of Rhygyfarch ap Sulien in British Library, Cotton MS Faustina C.i, Part II”

Abstract of Paper at the 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo, 2013)

Session on “Medieval Writing Materials:  Texts, Transmission, and the Manifestation of Authority”
Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
Organized by Mildred Budny (RGME)
2013 Congress

[First published on our first website on 15 May 2013]

When he was killed by Normans in 1093, it was said of Rhys ap Tewdwr, prince of Deheubarth in south Wales: “with [him] fell the kingdom of the Britons.”  This apocalyptic statement in the Welsh chronicles matches the fervor and panic contained in a Latin ‘Lament’ written in 1094 by Rhygyfarch, son of Bishop Sulien of St. David’s.  Rhygyfarch’s poem records the miserable plight of a people in the midst of conquest, lamenting the suffering of the Welsh people under the cruelty of the French.  The poem is contained in a single manuscript (London, British Library Cotton MS Faustina C.I., Part II), which must be reevaluated for patterns of transmission in the complex historical context of post-Norman Conquest Britain.

My paper presents a new edition and study of Rhygyfarch’s ‘Lament’ as both an independent and integrated production.  Contrary to previous scholarship, I argue that the single leaf that contains the ‘Lament’ is older than the rest of the manuscript.  The significance of this assertion — reached through detailed analysis of script, parchment, and text — raises questions as to textual survival and authority.  Why was the ‘Lament’ added to a copy of Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis?  Did a Norman or Welsh scribe copy the ‘Lament’?  What is the significance of this manuscript’s use of Caroline minuscule for the first time as a book hand in Wales?  What can the manuscript as a physical artifact tell us of Welsh attitudes towards conquest?  By examining this unique poem within its manuscript context we may shed light on the importance of Latin composition and the performance of secular texts at a time of immense political upheaval.

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  1. […] Sarah Zeiser (Harvard University), “The Transmission of the Welsh-Latin ‘Lament’ of Rhygyfarch ap Sulien in British Library, Cotton MS Faustina C.i., Part II” Zeiser (2013 Congress) […]