Medieval Boundaries: Rethinking Difference in Old French Literature (The Middle Ages Series)

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9780812239195: Medieval Boundaries: Rethinking Difference in Old French Literature (The Middle Ages Series)

In Medieval Boundaries, Sharon Kinoshita examines the role of cross-cultural contact in twelfth- and early thirteenth-century French literature. Starting from the observation that many of the earliest and best-known works of the French literary tradition are set on or beyond the borders of the French-speaking world, she reads the Chanson de Roland, the lais of Marie de France, and a variety of other texts in an expanded geographical frame that includes the Iberian peninsula, the Welsh marches, and the eastern Mediterranean. In Kinoshita's reconceptualization of the geographical and cultural boundaries of the medieval West, such places become significant not only as sites of conflict but also as spaces of intense political, economic, and cultural negotiation.

An important contribution to the emerging field of medieval postcolonialism, Kinoshita's work explores the limitations of reading the literature of the French Middle Ages as an inevitable link in the historical construction of modern discourses of Orientalism, colonialism, race, and Christian-Muslim conflict. Rather, drawing on recent historical and art historical scholarship, Kinoshita uncovers a vernacular culture at odds with official discourses of crusade and conquest. Situating each work in its specific context, she brings to light the lived experiences of the knights and nobles for whom this literature was first composed and—in a series of close readings informed by postcolonial and feminist theory—demonstrates that literary representations of cultural encounters often provided the pretext for questioning the most basic categories of medieval identity.

Awarded honorable mention for the 2007 Modern Language Association Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies

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Sharon Kinoshita is Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Introduction

Medieval Borders began with the curious realization that many of the best-known works of medieval French literature take place on or beyond the borders of "France" or even the French-speaking world: the Chanson de Roland, the Lais of Marie de France, Chrétien de Troyes's Cligès, Aucassin et Nicolette, and a host of others. Capitalizing on this insight, Medieval Borders sets out to rethink Old French literary production (circa 1150-1225) through the thematics of cultural interaction. The inaugural phase of vernacular French literature, I will argue, is inextricably linked to historical situations of contact between French-speaking nobles and peoples they perceived as their linguistic, religious, and cultural others.

Like much recent work in the emerging field of "postcolonial medievalism," Medieval Borders is animated by theoretical problematics derived from Edward Said's Orientalism and postcolonial theory: the representation of the other, the dynamics of cross-cultural contact, the question of the crusades as a proto-colonial enterprise. To date, much of the work in postcolonial medievalism has focused on late medieval England in the age of Chaucer and after. The cultural and temporal specificity of this focus has important consequences. In late medieval England, as critics like Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Geraldine Heng, Suzanne Conklin Akbari, and others have shown, it is possible to identify elements of the discourses of Orientalism and nationalism in nascent but clearly recognizable forms. Such exercises in postcolonial medievalism thus tend, implicitly or explicitly, to make an argument for continuity, construing the Middle Ages as the site of the origin, or at least the consolidation, of the emergent ideologies of European colonial expansionism.

Medieval Borders seeks to complicate this understanding by delineating the specificity of a representative range of medieval texts along three critical axes: periodization, geography, and vernacularization. We will begin with periodization. In her synthetic study Strong of Body, Brave and Noble, Constance Brittain Bouchard cautions against the dangers of reading history "backward," of assuming that a phenomenon or attitude found in the fourteenth or fifteenth century must also have existed in the twelfth. Medieval Borders explicitly casts the early thirteenth century as a moment of epistemic rupture, in which several key twelfth-century institutions, practices, and mentalities were, in relatively short order, reorganized, challenged, or abolished. The Fourth Crusaders' sack of Constantinople (1204) and the Albigensian Crusade (1209-29) marked a turning inward of the violence Pope Urban II had unleashed in 1095 with his famous cry, "Deus lo volt!" (God wills it!), while Philip Augustus's victory over the Angevin-Flemish coalition at the battle of Bouvines (1214) assured the ascendancy of the French monarchy over the great feudal lords—many of whom had, at the time of Philip's accession (1180), commanded greater wealth and power than the king himself. But it was the Fourth Lateran Council (convened in Rome in November 1215) that most ominously augured some of the changes to come. Most particularly, the attention devoted to identifying and regulating internal others—Jews, heretics, and lepers—gestures toward the increasingly disciplinary taxonomies of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, part of an epistemic will toward totalization also manifest in the encyclopedic impulse prevalent in Latin and vernacular culture alike. Whatever the causes of this epistemic shift, medievalists working in a wide range of specializations agree on its effects. For R. R. Davies, the thirteenth century brought a new tone to the Anglo-Norman colonization of Wales: "racial distinctions became sharper and more abrasive," accompanied by "notions...of legal and even moral uniformity" that would have been alien to early twelfth-century Normans—"motivated by greed and power, not by racial or 'national' animus." For Geraldine Heng, the long thirteenth century is one of the policing of internal and external boundaries, of "interiors turned inside out for inspection," of an impulse toward containment, assimilation, and regulation; not coincidentally, it is also the century of the rise of medieval nationalism, built on "a racializing discourse of biological and spiritual difference, posited on religion, color, and physiognomy." David Abulafia likewise identifies the late Middle Ages with "the hardening of the external boundaries" between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in a process linked to the "wider process of state-building," by the fourteenth century, "even the Muslim kingdom of Granada...had become staunchly Islamic in identity" while the Christian kingdoms "increasingly legislated to separate their Jewish and Muslim subjects from the rest of civil society, even if the new laws were often honored in the breach." The "fuzzy and foggy" religious frontiers of earlier times gave way to "mental barricades," sometimes "translated into real, physical walls, dividing the judería or morería from Christian society and from the nation state of which they could not be members."

My second critical axis concerns the geography of medieval French literature. Geography, Franco Moretti has argued, shapes narrative structure: "Placing a literary phenomenon in its specific space—mapping it"—can thus be a powerful tool of analysis, "bringing to light relations that would otherwise remain hidden." Approaching medieval texts in this way requires, however, an initial effort of defamiliarization. In the twelfth century, the national borders we today take for granted were far from inevitable. Henry II and Richard I of England ruled an "Angevin empire" stretching from the Scottish border in the north to Aquitaine in the south, while the count-kings of Aragon were assembling a trans-Pyrenean empire wrapping around the Mediterranean from Barcelona to Marseilles. This means that the nationalist paradigms that have traditionally shaped our understanding of the Middle Ages are frequently ill-suited to the objects they purport to explain.i In our period, to take one example, it is impossible to correlate language with nation: by the late twelfth century, Old French was spoken in England, Norman Sicily, Lusignan Cyprus, and the crusader states of Outremer, but not in the area today known as southern France. One of postcolonial medievalism's most significant contributions has been to analyze the emergence of nationalism in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in the context of England's Hundred Years War against France and the consolidation of English as a literary and national language. Conversely, one of the goals of Medieval Borders is to delink our readings of twelfth- and early thirteenth-century French texts from the teleology of the modern nation, making visible alternate histories not defined by the borders of the modern Hexagon. As we will see, the interests and imagination of the crusaders, mercenaries, pilgrims, merchants, and settlers who constituted the audience of Old French epic and romance were not limited to the frontiers of twelfth-century—let alone twenty-first-century—France. A fundamental thesis of this book is that medieval French speakers had a much greater degree of involvement in and knowledge of the cultures of the Iberian peninsula and the Mediterranean than modern readers generally credit.

The third critical axis Medieval Borders seeks to make visible is the distinction between Latinate and vernacular culture. Against a trickle-down theory of medieval culture, in which Old French literature is presumed to mirror the ideologies and concerns of official and learned texts of the day, I believe, with Peter Haidu, that vernacular texts of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries "constitute a new cultural territorialization, best identified as that of a 'minor literature': one in which a subordinate group—minor at least within the sphere of culture and ideology—constructs its own textuality, as against an official and formally institutionalized culture (that of the Church), a construction in which everything is to be read politically, as implying collective values. In this context, the reading of medieval textuality as representing a closed ideological and semiotic monophony is as gross a travesty of historicism as one can find!" The long twelfth century, between the Council of Clermont (where Pope Urban II preached the "armed pilgrimage" that would become the First Crusade) and Bouvines, was a moment of prise de conscience for the feudal nobility for (and, in some cases, by) whom the earliest surviving examples of Old French and Occitan literature were composed. This was the age of great turf battles between the church and feudal kings and princes, exemplified in flashpoints like the Investiture Controversy, the assassination of Thomas Becket, and (in a case we will examine at length) the Albigensian crusades. In the ways they conducted their wars and contracted their marriages, colorful figures like Guilhem IX of Aquitaine and even staid ones like French king Philip Augustus repeatedly ran afoul of papal policies that sought to bring all areas of secular life under ecclesiastical control. In such circumstances, as Jeffrey Kittay and Wlad Godzich write, "The very decision to write in a vernacular tongue grants that tongue a status that bears at least some analogy to that of Latin....It reflects a perception of the social and communicative importance of the tongue and inevitably raises issues of hegemony of one tongue over others."

Nowhere is the intersection of periodicity, geography, and vernacularization more important than in representations of Latin Europe's interactions with its religious and cultural others. Bracketed by the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 and the conquest of Constantinople in 1204, the twelfth century is, indisputably, a century of crusade. It is certainly possible to construct a history of Christian-Muslim hostility running in a straight line from the council of Clermont in 1095 to our own present moment. My argument in Medieval Borders, however, is that postcolonial medievalism's disproportionate focus on the English fourteenth century has produced a skewed impression of a proto-modern Middle Ages in which nascent phases of nationalism, colonialism, and Orientalism are always already visible. In part, this has to do with another problem of periodization: the divide between the late Middle Ages and early modernity. In a sense, claims for the medieval roots of early modern racism or colonialism may be seen as the dark side of claims for a twelfth-century "Renaissance" and discovery of the individual: a subaltern attempt to overturn the binary "othering" of the Middle Ages imposed by the discourse of early modernity.

But, as Ania Loomba writes, "any meaningful discussion of colonial or post-colonial hybridities demands close attention to the specificities of location." Rather than attempting to trace the continuities between medieval and modern intolerance, Medieval Borders tries to bring into focus the messier, less codified age before the early thirteenth-century epistemic divide, a world less riven by fixed perceptions of difference. "Nation" was an unstable category that could be defined neither linguistically nor territorially, marking anything from regional feudal affiliations (gens Normannorum) to a nascent sense of Latin—opposed to Orthodox—Christianity (gens latina). Representations of alterity were notably more fluid and less marked by the racializing discourses typical of later centuries than we sometimes assume.

It is particularly in analyzing the relationship between medieval Christians and Muslims that the focus on vernacular literature as such can make a difference. This is a topic that has, of course, been treated by many eminent medievalists: Norman Daniel, for example, in Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (1960), and R. W. Southern in Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages (1962). Revisiting these classic essays in the wake of Edward Said, however, we cannot help but be struck by the incommensurability underpinning both titles: an abstract, geographically defined culture, "the West," on the one hand, and a world religion, "Islam," on the other. For the Middle Ages, it would surely make better sense to speak of "Christian views of Islam" (Daniel's chapter headings include "The Early History of Christian Anti-Islamic Polemic," "Revelation: Christian Understanding of Islamic Belief," and "The Relation between Islam and Christianity") or even "Latin Christian views of Islam," since Southern repeatedly underscores the distinction between Latin Europe and the Byzantine East. Both titles, moreover, cast Islam as an object, created by Western representational machinery and offered up to the Western gaze. The focus on Islam (rather than on Muslims or the Islamic world) reflects the tendency of many modern studies to privilege medieval anti-Muslim polemic. Containing "much that is appalling to the [modern] reader: crude insults to the Prophet, gross caricatures of Muslim ritual, deliberate deformation of passages of the Koran, degrading portrayals of Muslims as libidinous, gluttonous, semihuman barbarians," medieval treatises furnish vivid and copious material to those interested in tracing the long genealogy of Christian hostility toward Islam. Obscured in the process, however, are medieval Christians' lived reactions to and interactions with Muslims and the Islamic world—interactions much more complex and multifaceted than implied in the demonizing depictions by Norman Daniel or Edward Said himself.

Composed in a milieu often at odds with the "official culture" of Latin clerics, vernacular French literature offers a peek at this other Middle Ages, often lost beneath the radar of ideological polemic. An emblematic object here is the so-called Eleanor vase, a luminous honeycombed rock crystal vessel (today displayed in the Louvre) that Eleanor of Aquitaine brought north with her in 1137 when she married the French king Louis VII. There Abbot Suger—the king's minister and architect of the new "Gothic" style—had it fitted with a precious metal frame bearing the following inscription: "Hoc vas sponsa dedit Alienor Regi Ludovico Mitadolus avo mihi rex sanctis que Suger" (As a bride, Eleanor gave this vase to King Louis, Mitadolus to her grandfather, the King to me, and Suger to the Saints). The vase (originally carved in pre-Islamic Sassanian Persia) had first come into Eleanor's family as a gift to her grandfather, the troubadour-duke Guilhem IX. The giver, Mitadolus, has been identified as 'Imad al-Dawla (the last ta ifa king of Saragossa), deposed in 1110 by the Almoravids, his Muslim coreligionists from North Africa. After losing his kingdom, 'Imad al-Dawla made common cause with the Christian king of Aragon, Alfonso I, against the Almoravids at the battle of Cutanda in 1120. Since Guilhem was there, too, it may have been on this occasion that he received the vase: a token of friendship between two political allies, one Muslim and one Christian. In Suger's inscription, a single verb, dedit, governs four acts of giving: 'Imad al-Dawla's to Guilhem IX, Eleanor's to L...

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Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2006. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.In Medieval Boundaries, Sharon Kinoshita examines the role of cross-cultural contact in twelfth- and early thirteenth-century French literature. Starting from the observation that many of the earliest and best-known works of the French literary tradition are set on or beyond the borders of the French-speaking world, she reads the Chanson de Roland, the lais of Marie de France, and a variety of other texts in an expanded geographical frame that includes the Iberian peninsula, the Welsh marches, and the eastern Mediterranean. In Kinoshita s reconceptualization of the geographical and cultural boundaries of the medieval West, such places become significant not only as sites of conflict but also as spaces of intense political, economic, and cultural negotiation. An important contribution to the emerging field of medieval postcolonialism, Kinoshita s work explores the limitations of reading the literature of the French Middle Ages as an inevitable link in the historical construction of modern discourses of Orientalism, colonialism, race, and Christian-Muslim conflict. Rather, drawing on recent historical and art historical scholarship, Kinoshita uncovers a vernacular culture at odds with official discourses of crusade and conquest. Situating each work in its specific context, she brings to light the lived experiences of the knights and nobles for whom this literature was first composed and-in a series of close readings informed by postcolonial and feminist theory-demonstrates that literary representations of cultural encounters often provided the pretext for questioning the most basic categories of medieval identity. Awarded honorable mention for the 2007 Modern Language Association Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780812239195

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Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Hardcover. 320 pages. Dimensions: 8.9in. x 6.1in. x 1.2in.In Medieval Boundaries, Sharon Kinoshita examines the role of cross-cultural contact in twelfth- and early thirteenth-century French literature. Starting from the observation that many of the earliest and best-known works of the French literary tradition are set on or beyond the borders of the French-speaking world, she reads the Chanson de Roland, the lais of Marie de France, and a variety of other texts in an expanded geographical frame that includes the Iberian peninsula, the Welsh marches, and the eastern Mediterranean. In Kinoshitas reconceptualization of the geographical and cultural boundaries of the medieval West, such places become significant not only as sites of conflict but also as spaces of intense political, economic, and cultural negotiation. An important contribution to the emerging field of medieval postcolonialism, Kinoshitas work explores the limitations of reading the literature of the French Middle Ages as an inevitable link in the historical construction of modern discourses of Orientalism, colonialism, race, and Christian-Muslim conflict. Rather, drawing on recent historical and art historical scholarship, Kinoshita uncovers a vernacular culture at odds with official discourses of crusade and conquest. Situating each work in its specific context, she brings to light the lived experiences of the knights and nobles for whom this literature was first composed andin a series of close readings informed by postcolonial and feminist theorydemonstrates that literary representations of cultural encounters often provided the pretext for questioning the most basic categories of medieval identity. Awarded honorable mention for the 2007 Modern Language Association Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Hardcover. Bookseller Inventory # 9780812239195

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