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Title: Devout Sister's Aural Experiences in the Late Medieval Urban Sonic Environment
Subtitle: Soundscaping the Functional Context of Oral Literature
Author(s): DE MORRÉE, Cécile
Journal: Ons Geestelijk Erf
Volume: 86    Issue: 3   Date: 2015   
Pages: 159-177
DOI: 10.2143/OGE.86.3.3154600

Abstract :
Since medieval literature was mostly consumed by listening, its functioning was influenced by the performance’s sonic surroundings. This is particularly relevant for rethinking the circulations of texts within the Devotio Moderna communities of Sisters of the Common Life, that appear to have been governed by silence, but at the same time were situated within the rich urban sonic environment. Complementing traditional literary research, which relies on visual means of perception, this article explores some of the possibilities offered by sound-based research to oral literature, specifically song, in devout convents. A reconstruction – soundscape – is presented of the events that the Sisters of the Common Life would hear when fulfilling their obligation to visit the parish church on Sundays and feast days. It is demonstrated that sound played a larger part in convent life than is suggested by the Rule of Silence, indicating that the devout concept of silence should be understood as ‘managed sound’. The soundscape also offers a clearer insight into how the sisters’ aural experiences were influenced by their sonic environment. Furthermore, it offers a pathway to come nearer to the oral processes that are essential to the functioning of oral literature – especially song – in religious communities, as is tentatively illustrated by the Middle Dutch song codex Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, mgo 185.

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