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Violence and the Writing of History in the Medieval Francophone World

Violence and the Writing of History in the Medieval Francophone World

Noah D. Guynn
Zrinka Stahuljak
Series: Gallica
Volume: 29
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Violence and the Writing of History in the Medieval Francophone World
    Book Description:

    The concept of medieval historiography as 'usable past' is here challenged and reassessed. The contributors' shared claim is that the value of medieval historiographical texts lies not only in the factual information the texts contain but also in the methods and styles they use to represent and interpret the past and make it ideologically productive. Violence is used as the key term that best demonstrates the making of historical meaning in the Middle Ages, through the transformation of acts of physical aggression and destruction into a memorable and usable past. The twelve chapters assembled here explore a wide range of texts emanating from throughout the francophone world. They cover a range of genres ('chansons de geste', histories, chronicles, travel writing, and lyric poetry), and range from the late eleventh to the fifteenth century. Through examination of topics as varied as rhetoric, imagery, humor, gender, sexuality, trauma, subversion, and community formation, each chapter strives to demonstrate how knowledge of the medieval past can be enhanced by approaching medieval modes of historical representation and consciousness on their own terms, and by acknowledging - and resisting - the desire to subject them to modern conceptions of historical intelligibility. Noah D. Guynn is Associate Professor of French at the University of California, Davis; Zrinka Stahuljak is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. Contributors: Noah D. Guynn, Zrinka Stahuljak, James Andrew Cowell, Jeff Rider, Leah Shopkow, Matthew Fisher, Karen Sullivan, David Rollo, Deborah McGrady, Rosalind Brown-Grant, Simon Gaunt.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-072-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. 1 Introduction Historicity, Violence, and the Medieval Francophone World: Mémoire Hystérisée
    (pp. 1-16)
    Noah D. Guynn and Zrinka Stahuljak

    In the 1869 preface to his Histoire de France (1833–67), the great Romantic historian Jules Michelet declares that, prior to the composition of his magnum opus, France “avait des annales, et non point une histoire” [had annals but not a history].¹ In his view, annals are to history as mere facts are to life itself: while the former do little more than compile information about great men, pivotal events, and dominant institutions, the latter captures the national spirit and life in its totality: “la vie historique … en toutes ses voies, toutes ses formes, tous ses éléments” [historical life...

  7. Part I. Theorizing Violence

    • 2 Violence, History, and the Old French Epic of Revolt
      (pp. 19-34)
      Andrew Cowell

      A number of scholars of literature, history, and anthropology have recognized that the old distinction made by Marcel Mauss and Claude Lévi-Strauss between gift giving and violence is no longer tenable.¹ Lévi-Strauss suggested that the opposition between gift and violence was largely homologous with the opposition between friend and enemy. More recently, however, scholars have noted that gift giving often includes highly aggressive elements, while violence can be a socially constrained and regulated tactic that can be understood as a form of reciprocity that is not always dissimilar from the reciprocity of gift giving.²

      At the same time, it has...

    • 3 Rhetoric, Providence, and Violence in Villehardouin’s La conquête de Constantinople
      (pp. 35-52)
      Noah D. Guynn

      From military commanders to petty knights, ecclesiastical leaders to monastic historians, observers of, and participants in, the fourth crusade understood providential rhetoric as an available if contentious strategy for justifying violent conflict. Anyone familiar with the Crusade’s trajectory will know that these were events in sore need of justification. The host not only failed to retake Jerusalem from the “enemies of the cross,” as it pledged to do; it also vanquished two Christian cities, first helping the Venetians assert dominion over Zara and then establishing a Latin Empire in Constantinople. Given how unexpected and morally dubious these actions were, it...

  8. Part II. Institutions and Subversions

    • 4 Vice, Tyranny, Violence, and the Usurpation of Flanders (1071) in Flemish Historiography from 1093 to 1294
      (pp. 55-70)
      Jeff Rider

      The earliest sources of the history of medieval Flanders do not agree on the origins of the counts. The earliest source, the so-called “Genealogy of Arnold [I],” credibly traces the counts’ origin to Baldwin I “Iron Arm,” who eloped with and then married Judith, the daughter of Charles the Bald, around 863, while other sources push their origin back three generations and about seventy years to the shadowy “forester” Lideric.¹ The sources do agree, however, that once the line got started the succession proceeded with biblical regularity from father to son until the death of Count Baldwin VII in 1119....

    • 5 Marvelous Feats: Humor, Trickery, and Violence in the History of the Counts of Guines and Lords of Ardres of Lambert of Ardres
      (pp. 71-82)
      Leah Shopkow

      Lambert of Ardres in his History of the Counts of Guines and Lords of Ardres (ca. 1206) tells of an incident at the wedding of Arnold II “the old” of Ardres and Gertrude of Aalst:

      Now, among the many folk coming together from many regions to attend the nuptials, there was a certain rogue, a beer-drinker – as the custom of that time was. When he dined in the house with the other feasters, he proclaimed and boasted amongst them that he was such a great drinker that if the lord bridegroom would give him some sort of nag or horse,...

    • 6 Dismembered Borders and Treasonous Bodies in Anglo-Norman Historiography
      (pp. 83-98)
      Matthew Fisher

      From 1272 to 1307, edward I wielded the power of the English monarchy and a formidable bureaucracy against a seemingly endless list of enemies domestic, foreign, and merely adjacent. The innovations in legal theory and practice that took place during his reign were numerous, but concurrent with the processes of legal systemization and standardization there were rampant abuses and glaring exceptions. One of those exceptions was treason, an act of war punished as a capital crime and manufactured as a series of spectacles anticipating its legal definition.¹ Those judged guilty of treason were subjected to extreme punishments applied in new...

    • 7 The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Violence in the Canso de la Crozada
      (pp. 99-114)
      Karen Sullivan

      The scene of violence described in the Canso de la Crozada is a terrible one.¹ Ramon Roger, the Count of Foix, has attacked a group of Germans and Frisians, massacring them and mutilating those he did not kill by gouging out their eyes and cutting off their hands. Confronting the count at the fourth Lateran Council of 1215, Folquet de Marseille, the Bishop of Toulouse, protests,

      n’a tans mortz e trencatz e brizatz e partitz

      que lo cams de Montjoy ne remas si crostitz.

      … Laforas a la porta es tals lo dols e·l critz

      dels orbs e dels nafratz...

  9. Part III. Gender and Sexuality

    • 8 Political Violence and Sexual Violation in the Work of Benoît de Sainte-Maure
      (pp. 117-132)
      David Rollo

      Late in his Chronique des ducs de Normandie (ca. 1170–80), Benoît de Sainte-Maure makes an analogy:

      Vez, merveilles poez entendre

      Qu’en vos deit mostrer e aprendre:

      Qu’Agamennon e li Grezeis

      Ne bien plus de quatorze reis

      Ne porent Troie en disz anz prendre;

      Unques n’i sorent tant entendre.

      E icist dus od ses normanz

      E od ses autres buens aidanz

      Conquist un reiaume plenier

      E un grant pople fort e fier,

      Qui fu merveille estrange e grant,

      sol entre prime e l’anuitant. (39873–84)¹

      [Now you can hear a marvel that should indeed be brought to your attention. Agamemnon...

    • 9 The Sexuality of History: The Demise of Hugh Despenser, Roger Mortimer, and Richard II in Jean Le Bel, Jean Froissart, and Jean d’Outremeuse
      (pp. 133-148)
      Zrinka Stahuljak

      The francophone chroniclers Jean Le Bel, Jean Froissart, and Jean d’Outremeuse characterize the Franco-English Hundred years War (1337–1453) as senseless destruction, “morteile guere” [deadly war],¹ “grandes guerres et dissolutions” [great war and annihilation],² “grans destructions de gens et de pays” [great destruction of people and lands], and “grant desolation” [great devastation].³ Philippe de Mézières describes it as “une plaie … universelle” [a wound … universally spread].⁴ They begin their histories of this particularly devastating and bloody war with the events that brought Edward III to the throne. They report that, acting upon the counsel of Hugh Despenser the Younger,...

  10. Part IV. Trauma, Memory, and Healing

    • 10 “Guerre ne sert que de tourment”: Remembering War in the Poetic Correspondence of Charles d’Orléans
      (pp. 151-168)
      Deborah McGrady

      During the Hundred Years War (1337–1453), the lyric voice dramatically changed registers to express the violence and trauma suffered by the social psyche. Confirming Rukmini Nair’s claim that poetry can uniquely convey the complexity of terror, late medieval francophone writers reshaped courtly poetry, a genre previously dominated by love, to give voice to contemporary anxieties concerning the matter of war. War invaded the lyric world, redrawing generic, thematic, and affective boundaries, resulting in what one scholar has referred to as a “schizophrénie littéraire.”¹ For Adrian Armstrong and Sarah Kay, lyric accounts of social events differed markedly from traditional historical...

    • 11 Commemorating the Chivalric Hero: Text, Image, Violence, and Memory in the Livre des faits de messire Jacques de Lalaing
      (pp. 169-186)
      Rosalind Brown-Grant

      Just as violence was central to the reality of historical experience in late medieval France and Burgundy, so it was inevitably a key issue in the historical writings of the period whose chief aim was to preserve the memory of knights and their military deeds, to perpetuate an individual’s earthly renown, and to present the reader with exemplary models of valorous conduct.¹ These aims are nowhere more apparent than in the chivalric biographies of the period,² of which the most famous is that devoted to the Burgundian hero Jacques de Lalaing (1421–53), who was regarded by his countrymen as...

    • 12 Coming Communities in Medieval Francophone Writing about the Orient
      (pp. 187-202)
      Simon Gaunt

      In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries Christian Europe confronted two related problems in which history and violence were inextricably entwined. First, how was Christendom to turn back the frequently bellicose expansion of Islam, in particular its conquest of the Holy Land, to which many believed Christianity had inalienable historic rights? Secondly, was the vast, and in medieval terms global, empire of the Mongols friend or foe, a potential ally against Islam or another, potentially devastating, threat? From the brutal Mongol invasions of Russia, Poland, and Hungary in the early 1240s through the fall of Acre in 1291, Europeans felt beleaguered....

  11. INDEX
    (pp. 203-210)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 211-213)