Reckoning Time in Medieval Pisa

The Uses of Time

The chronicle's author uses a variety of references to time to structure his narrative. Temporal markers do more than tell the reader when a narrative episode begins, just as they do more than tell the reader what year or month it was. In the following sections, we analyze some conspicuous uses of time as an authorial tool, but to determine what is conspicuous in the text, we must first make some observations about what is normal. Though there are several instances in which the author uses references to time in fascinating ways, these must be understood in reference to his more standard deployment of temporal markers. 

As discussed in the previous section, a standard episode begins with a reference to time, as in the case of Episode 32's "Lo dicto anno poi" [f. 21r, l. 4], that is, by both naming the time of the forthcoming event and demarcating the time as distinct from the one previously discussed (this is what the word "poi" is doing). This is often followed by a more specific reference to the month and sometimes the day of the event; Episode 32's introduction is immediately followed by "del mese d'Ogosto" [f. 21r, l. 4], while the subsequent episode begins similarly, "Poi del stesso anno dela mese di Septembre" [f. 21r, ll. 26-27]. This marking of time is not universal, though; an episode may begin directly with the month, as does Episode 35: "Poi del mese di Marso u d'Aprile" [f. 23r, l. 7]. 

Temporal markers appear in the body of narrative accounts as well, albeit in a less formulaic way. However, the chronicle also contains accounts which are not narrative. It also contains numerous lists (mostly concerning the succession of podestà), which follow their own distinct layout. The opening episodes of the text, for example, deal entirely with naming podestà whose times precede the narrative. For example: "Master Alamanno dala Torre, podestà for six months, in 1258" (Messere Alamanno dala Torre, podestà mesi VI, MCCLVIII [f. 6r, ll. 12-13]). Sometimes, these temporal descriptors are followed by a brief mention of events that occurred during a podestà's time; for example: "Master Count Tegrimo was podestà for three years, beginning in 1248. In whose time there was an eclipse of the sun in 1249, on the first Friday of the month of June" (Messer Conte Tegrimo podestà anni III, MCCXXXVIII. In del cui tempo lo sole oscuro MCCXXXVIIII, lo primo venardi del mese di Giugnio [f. 5v, ll. 2-5]). Because the passing of office from one podestà to the next drives this section of the chronicle, these lists contain higher concentrations of temporal markers than are found elsewhere in the text. If we choose to divide episodes semantically, as we have in this project, we must distinguish between narratives and lists; otherwise the lists' concentrations of temporal markers will appear extraordinary.

One further observation about what is normal: We designated three types of temporal markers - liturgical, calendrical, and self-referential. The author overwhelmingly favors the latter two above the former, which suggests that where he uses saints' feasts (liturgical time), he does so with intentionality. This is not to say that his use of secular time is slipshod, though; the following observations, demonstrate how, and at some points, whether, the author uses time to shape his narrative.

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