The Loving Subject: Desire, Eloquence, and Power in Romanesque France

The Loving Subject: Desire, Eloquence, and Power in Romanesque France

The Loving Subject: Desire, Eloquence, and Power in Romanesque France

The Loving Subject: Desire, Eloquence, and Power in Romanesque France

Synopsis

"In The Loving Subject, Gerald Bond explores the rise of a new secular identity that took place in French elite culture at the turn of the twelfth century. While the period is widely recognized as pivotal, and while much revisionary work has been done on it, Bond notes that in order to see the changes in the conception of the private secular self the focus must be shifted away from epics and saints' lives, the traditional targets of literary inquiry, to lyric, letters, and marginal texts and images. Translating and using sources that for the most part have never been explored, Bond examines the Bayeux Tapestry and such figures as Marbod of Rennes, Baudri of Bourgueil, William of Poitiers, and Adela of Blois to frame a complex view of the contested reconception of the secular self and its value." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In this book I seek to complicate the subject of the High Middle Ages by analyzing the changes in the conception of the private secular self that took place in French elite culture around the turn of the twelfth century. Those changes only become visible when the focus of inquiry is shifted from its traditional targets, images and texts in epic or hagiographic mode, to others in lyric or epistolary mode. Though widely cultivated and preserved at the same time, these latter modes as well as the voices in them remain essentially unexamined and uninterpreted. Specialists continue to face enormous problems in establishing reliable texts, and non-specialists often face equivalent problems in finding and understanding what has been published. I want to collect and analyze some of this extraordinary material in order to show the necessity of redrawing the current picture of French Romanesque culture and its role in the history of Western representation of the self.

My analysis develops four theses. First, in late eleventh-century France one finds theories, artifacts, representations, and practices which attest to wide-spread interest in an elite, secular, and private self. Second, cultural products of a "personal" nature could only proliferate within a social nexus which itself assigned particular value to the construct of "person," and they would only interest agents of the dominant institutions as that construct began to affect structures of power. Third, such a nexus correlates to a hybrid subculture which had developed from the increased employment of clerics, the extended education of children from wealthy and powerful families, and the expansion of a "household" directly dependent on seigneurial favor. Finally, the novel images of the self which begin to appear are neither uniform nor coherent; they represent instead contested positions within an arena of ideological controversy over the privileged issues of desire and eloquence.

The rise of a new secular culture in France during the half century or so around 1100 -- a period now widely recognized as pivotal -- has attracted remarkably little attention. Recent studies of the period, despite the suc-

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