Hunting Law and Ritual in Medieval English Literature
"A truly remarkable book... deeply erudite, building on scholarship from French, Swedish, German, and English sources, ranging from pre-Conquest and Norman times to the late middle ages. The book guides us through the changing phases of hunting laws with great precision, neatly relating them to changes in hunting ritual (and their complex expression in literary texts)... The originality, lyricism and scholarship of this book make it one of the most important contributions to medieval studies in recent years." DAVID WALLACE, Judith Roden Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania; President, New Chaucer Society. When the Normans brought the forest law to England, they ruptured centuries-old continuity in hunting culture. Never before had the right to hunt been monopolized on such a scale, nor had the arts of hunting borne such an air of strict elitism. In the hunting reserves that kings later condescended to charter to their subjects, the English cultivated a particular vocabulary and style of hunting, adding it to the canon of performative skills which contributed to chivalric identity. The reading of animal tracks had always made the function of literacy in the hunt overt; now jargon and refinements in the art of slaughter gave nuance to the hunt's social literacy and lent it to elaborate adaptation. This study contrasts ancient custom with forest law, Beowulf with Sir Gawain, and law with poetry and treatise, to examine motifs and tropes that informed legal privilege, the heroic-chivalric subject, and aesthetics of violence. WILLIAM PERRY MARVIN is an Associate Professor of English at Colorado State University.
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