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‘It’s a Magical World’: The Page in Comics and Medieval Manuscripts
English Language Notes, 46.2 (2008)
The best comics; writes Anne Elizabeth Moore, “create an all-encompassing environment:’ Geoffrey Chaucer would seem to be making the same claim for medieval illuminated manuscripts when his narrator in The Book of the Duchess famously falls asleep while reading a book and dreams of waking up in a room that looks remarkably like the inside of one: with The Romance ofthe Rose painted on its walls- “bathe text and glose” – and the “story of Troye” depicted in its stained-glass windows. This bookish chamber suggests that an ideal, “dream” book is an all-encompassing environment that includes images as well as texts, a space designed for seeing as well as reading. Moreover, the specificities of the narrator’s description of this room-sized book imply that he is not one to limit himself to enjoying reading and looking as two separate activities, for he notes a visual aspect of the text of The Romance of the Rose-that it has been painted in brilliant colors, “colours fyne”-and he refers to the series of images in the stained glass windows as a “story:’ a narrative, in other words, to be read. As the narrator goes on to tell of the sun’s “gilden stremes” filling the room with light, we sense that this is a dream not only about being inside a book but also about the illuminating dream-like effects of the narrator’s synthesizing engagement with text and image.