Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing and Identity during the Hundred Years War

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing and Identity during the Hundred Years War

Article excerpt

Susan Crane, The Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing and Identity during the Hundred Years War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002). ix + 269 pp.; ii figures, 4 plates. ISBN 0-19-811279-3, £35.00 (hard covers); o-8i22-i8o6-X, £14.00 (p/b).

This stimulating book is a response to the topic of 'self-fashioning' that has preoccupied cultural historians ever since Stephen Greenblatt coined the term in 1980, and more specifically to medievalists' (often overly defensive) insistence that medieval people did have a sense of themselves as individuals. But it is also an important response to the model of the self as an inner core or hidden interior. Under the influence of judith Butler and social anthropologists such as Pierre Bourdieu (arguably, the presiding geniuses of this volume), attention has now shifted to how identity is enacted on the surface of the body, through a variety of public gestures and symbolic adornments. This is not just academic: the pages of Hello! bear witness to our insatiable fascination with celebrity identities created through fashion and ritual performances: lavish, customized weddings; fancy-dress charity balls.

Susan Crane's book, which focuses on English and French court culture during the 'long Hundred Years War' (1300-1450), is a wonderful contribution to the history of that bodily display. Company logos and David Beckham's tattoos represent the triumphant democratisation of the once-elite self-branding of medieval knights' crests and badges. These modern manifestations may also represent not so much individual subjectivity but what Crane calls the 'negotiable selP or 'self in circulation' (p. 20). But print culture and electronic media make possible the dissemination of identity on a scale scarcely imagined in the Middle Ages. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.