Epistolary Documents in High-Medieval History Writing

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This article focuses on the way history-writers in the reign of King Henry II (King
of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, d. 1189) quoted documents in their histories. Although scholars have often identified documentary quotation as the most distinctive feature of history-writing from this period, I argue here that the practice of quoting documents has not been properly assessed from a rhetorical perspective. Focusing on epistolary documents in the histories written by Roger of Howden, Ralph de Diceto and Stephen of Rouen, I suggest that scholarship on these texts has distinguished between ‘document’ and ‘narrative’ too sharply. My argument, rather, is that epistolary documents functioned as narrative intertexts; they were not simply truth claims deployed to authenticate a history-writer’s own narrative. The corollary to this is that scholarship on these texts needs to negotiate the potentially fictive nature of documentary intertexts, just as it has long negotiated the potentially fictive nature of the historiographical discourse that frames them.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalInterfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literature
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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