Mimi Ensley
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A recusant’s romance connection to the past
in Difficult pasts
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This chapter centres on Edward Banister, an Elizabethan scribe and recusant Catholic who used printed books as the exemplars for his early modern manuscripts of Middle English romance. Banister’s manuscripts, which include copies of Sir Degore, Sir Eglamour, Sir Isumbras, The Jest of Sir Gawain and Robert the Devil, have received little critical attention, and since the identification of the scribe in 1978, questions about how Banister’s biography and Catholic identity relate to his romance manuscripts have yet to be asked. This chapter, thus, interrogates the connections between the scribe’s recusant identity and his interest in the romance genre and manuscript medium. The metaphor of the ‘collage’ allows us to more fully comprehend the interplay of time and technology, creation and destruction in Banister’s history and manuscripts. We see technological collage in the ways Banister combines the aesthetics of print and manuscript, and we see cultural collage when we consider Banister’s position as a practising Catholic in the midst of a changing religious world.

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Difficult pasts

Post-Reformation memory and the medieval romance


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