The Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing, and Identity During the Hundred Years War / Edition 1

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Medieval courtiers defined themselves in ceremonies and rituals. Tournaments, Maying, interludes, charivaris, and masking invited the English and French nobility to assert their identities in gesture and costume as well as in speech. These events presumed that performance makes a self, in contrast to the modern belief that identity precedes social performance and, indeed, that performance falsifies the true, inner self. Susan Crane resists the longstanding convictions that medieval rituals were trivial affairs, and that personal identity remained unarticulated until a later period.

Focusing on England and France during the Hundred Years War, Crane draws on wardrobe accounts, manuscript illuminations, chronicles, archaeological evidence, and literature to recover the material as well as the verbal constructions of identity. She seeks intersections between theories of practice and performance that explain how appearances and language connect when courtiers dress as wild men to interrupt a wedding feast, when knights choose crests and badges to supplement their coats of arms, and when Joan of Arc cross-dresses for the court of inquisition after her capture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Suggestive and thought-provoking."—Modern Philology

"Crane builds a strong basis for discussion of a kind of privileged late medieval secularism. The materials she studies are remarkable not only for the striking collocations she produces but for their own inherent fascination, and it is good to have attention directed to them in so focused and timely a way. It is particularly refreshing to have a study of elite activity that is neither idealizing nor reproving."—David Lawton, Washington University

"Crane's consideration of 'court performances' of later fourteenth- and earlier fifteenth-century English and French literature and culture is both polished and erudite, written both deftly and with clarity throughout. A finely crafted and imaginative study."—Paul Strohm, University of Oxford

"Crane's readers cannot fail to be engaged with and fascinated by this book's array of late-medieval cultural practices 'performed' by the French and English courtly elite."—Speculum

"Crane moves with admirable grace among an array of sources including household accounts, inquisitional records, chronicles, and a wide range of literature. Her interpretive strategies frequently upset received opinion and reverse readers' expectations with exciting results. . . . This book definitely breaks new ground and is an important contribution to the study of late medieval culture."—Journal of English and Germanic Philology

"Susan Crane's book . . . is a wonderful contribution to the history of bodily display. . . . Erudite, richly detailed, and suggestive, with excellent footnotes, bibliography, and index, this is a gold mine that readers will happily quarry (and extend to other medieval texts and practices) for some time to come."—Medium Aevum

"Susan Crane's book is an exemplary performance. The elegance with which the argument is executed, the breadth and detail of its application and, above all, the integrity with which Crane handles her delicate, often fragmentary and always haunting source texts—both pre- and postmodern—convinces any reader that, in the traces of the past, medieval selves 'can still make themselves known today.'"—Parergon

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812218060
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Series: The Middle Ages Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 284
  • Sales rank: 1,183,776
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Crane is Professor of English at Columbia University and author of Gender and Romance in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Note on Citations

Chapter 1 Talking Garments
Chapter 2 Maytime in Late Medieval Courts
Chapter 3 Joan of Arc and Women's Cross-Dress
Chapter 4 Chivalric Display and Incognito
Chapter 5 Wild Doubles in Charivari and Interlude


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