Siren Enchantments, or, Reading Sound in Medieval Books


This paper reflects on the complexity of reading medieval voiced texts, where “reading with one’s ears” puts literary criticism on a convergence course with the history of the book. The medieval siren epitomizes this reading environment where text, sound, page, and the limits of the human, are all in play. Found in texts, images, and notated song, sirens both sing and enchant, bewitching by appearance and incantation. I follow their deceits and detours in the Queen Mary Psalter, the Bestiaire d’amour of Richard de Fournival, and an anonymous French lyric, RS 318.

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