Medieval Conduct

Medieval Conduct

Medieval Conduct

Medieval Conduct

Excerpt

One of the most problematic sites in contemporary cultural theorizing is the link between text and history. The question of how we theorize the connection between documents or texts and lived practice or performance remains open, as we see from debates within a number of fields— anthropology, history, theater, and mass media studies, to name but a few. Fixed epistemological assumptions about the stability of sign and knowability of referent basic to many disciplines have also been called into question by the insights of poststructuralism. Medieval conduct provides an exemplary location for exploring these theoretical issues. We place equal emphasis on three aspects of medieval conduct—texts, theories, and practices—with the goal of articulating the relationships among them.

Traditionally, when medieval scholarship has entertained the notion of conduct, it has privileged texts, called “conduct” or “courtesy” books. The term “courtesy book” usually refers to prose treatises or poems inculcating the etiquette of court. Within English scholarship, editions of texts addressed to males, like the Book of Courtesy or The Babees Book, published by the Early English Text Society in the nineteenth century, have provided materials for the writing of the social history of the upper . . .

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