116th Annual Conference - Bellingham, Washington
Friday, November 9 - Sunday, November 11, 2018

Tournaments: Staging Politics in the Middle Ages

Christene D'Anca, University of California, Santa Barbara

I argue that tournaments as extended social occasions gained prominence due to the enjoyment the participants and organizers drew from having encountered them in literature, and their continued patronage of such actual events instigated their further appearance in literary production, highlighting the cyclical relationship between reality, art, and literature as they constantly fed off of one another.

Proposal: 

The northern territories of France, along with Flanders, favored artistic endeavors as a means of demonstrating their nobility, especially within romances, epics, or court poetry. Consequently, tournaments became spaces for the aristocracy to commemorate themselves through the production of art and literature, such as in the famous and well-documented Chauvency, in which numerous noble families participated, and which was an actual event before it became immortalized as a romance. Few people would read old charters and genealogies outlining the deeds of ancient nobles, but entertaining romances, such as Le Roman du Hem, another historic gathering of nobles, that was then written by, for, and about the nobility as its members physically acted out their parts in banquet scenes, dances, and tournois, helped the participants earn their places in posterity, paving the way for these types of events to become social and cultural gatherings outside just the tournament proper.

In short, I argue that tournaments as extended social occasions gained prominence due to the enjoyment the participants and organizers drew from having encountered them in literature, and their continued patronage of such actual events instigated their further appearance in literary production, highlighting the cyclical relationship between reality, art, and literature as they constantly fed off of one another.

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