Marshal McLuhan prophesied a future where television would assume a pedagogical role, teaching its viewers about real-world issues. Richard Firth Green references McLuhan in the second chapter of Medieval English Literature: 1100-1500, while defining for readers the difference between textual and interpretative communities. Marshal McLuhan claimed, The Medium is the Message, and that the channel through which information is disseminated alters the message. For example, watching the president’s State of the Union Address, followed by a movie about superheroes inextricably alters the message. When applied to medieval manuscripts, I find the connection between medium and message very interesting. Anthologies exemplify the manipulation of readership, through the effects of juxtaposing texts, implicitly or explicitly, for the purpose of creating new meanings. That is, the new meaning gleaned from an anthologized work may not overtly change the meaning of the text, but readers will now begin to associate the texts that otherwise would have stood alone, begging the question: what effects, if any, are produced from anthologized works. Also, a question of mass communication presents itself. For example, how large of an audience was previewed to the texts of Ashmole61? Even more than that, what was the percentage of the audience exposed to duplications of the texts in Ashmole61. The precise answers to these questions are not possible, of course; however, as Green notes, “we must begin with the texts themselves, and then hypothesized the community that formed around them” (28). As a result, the work of medieval scholars attempting to identify communities that constituted manuscript culture and audience appears to be analogous to the work of an archeologist, wiping away the dust of the past to connect and conjecture over the cultural products a civilization left behind. So far I am still trying to find the vocabulary to discuss medieval literature.
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