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Mary C. Flannery

This final chapter examines Hoccleve’s engagement with both female shamefastness and masculinity in two of his early works, the Letter of Cupid (his translation of Christine de Pizan’s anti-misogynist Epistre au dieu d’Amours) and La Male Regle, through the lens of what has been characterized as Hoccleve’s distinctive pattern of self-effacement. It argues that, in presenting himself as a ‘poore shamefast man’, Hoccleve plays on two of the key beliefs underpinning the medieval practice of honourable female shamefastness: the belief that such emotional practices can be learned, and the belief that they can also be counterfeited. The chapter begins by taking a closer look at the Middle English language of ‘manhood’ and ‘manliness’ in relation to shamefastness. It then turns to Hoccleve’s treatment of misleading appearances in his Letter of Cupid, in which Hoccleve claims to have proto-feminist intentions but ultimately suggests that the behaviour of neither men nor women can be taken at face value. Finally, it considers La Male Regle in order to show how Hoccleve exploits the idea of shamefastness as a replicable practice, transforming what medieval women were encouraged to make an apparently artless performance of virtue into a performance of conspicuous artifice.

in Practising shame
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Shame and the subject of women’s bodies
Mary C. Flannery

This chapter begins by using the subject of women’s preuytees (or shamefuls, as genitalia might also be termed in Middle English) as a gateway to examining the relationship between shame and the embodied nature of female honour in medieval English culture, focusing on the links between postlapsarian shame and the body in the medieval imagination. It then considers how postlapsarian shame contributed to medieval understandings of pain and shame as universal features of women’s experience of childbirth. Finally, it explores how the prologue of one version of the mid fifteenth-century gynaecological treatise now known as The Sickness of Women, as well as the prologue of The Knowing of Woman’s Kind in Childing, employ strategies to mitigate the social and emotional risks women faced in exposing their bodies even for the ostensibly innocent purposes of medical diagnosis and treatment. While they perhaps inevitably replicate the gestures of concealing and revealing that characterize the practice of female honour, these prologues also present women’s shamefastness as something deserving of sympathy, respect, and protection.

in Practising shame
Elisabeth Dutton

This chapter considers early modern academic drama performed at St John’s College, Oxford. Dutton begins by describing the college household materials on which such performances drew, adopting a productively broad definition of this category that includes the people working, studying, and teaching at St John’s, as well as their immediate neighbours in town; the college’s domestic furnishings, such as tables, paintings, and candles; the matter covered there in lectures; and the university’s own medieval foundations. Working first from a text now known as The Christmas Prince, a richly informative but often overlooked account of the 1607–1608 Christmas festivities at St John’s, Dutton describes the financing of the St John’s plays as well as the practicalities associated with their staging and rehearsal and with the sourcing of actors. In the productions performed as part of the Christmas Prince celebrations as well as in the earlier and later examples of St John’s college drama that Dutton examines, the college play emerges as a means of reaffirming and celebrating the local, collegiate culture as well as constituting an interface with the outside world across which people and ideas might move both into and out of the college household.

in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France
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Healing, reading, and perfection in the late-medieval household
Michael Leahy

This chapter considers the reception of John of Arderne’s treatise, the Practica de fistula in ano (1376). Leahy points out that Arderne’s appeal was unlikely to have been restricted to the medical practitioners who are known to have possessed copies of his work: the author-surgeon’s sensitive depiction of the power dynamics of the medieval household and his deployment in his writing of features deriving from the chronicle and romance traditions implicate a broader, less specialised readership. That Arderne’s work met with such an audience is indicated by the inclusion of a Latin text of the Practica alongside two less specialised Middle English texts dealing with the matter of self-care and the apparently miraculous properties of rosemary in an early fifteenth-century compilation, London, British Library MS Additional 29301. This manuscript presents an interesting mix of perspectives on the matter of healthy living, adumbrating the tensions that might exist between members of the household, who favoured their own homegrown cures, and professional medical practitioners. Leahy argues that such a constellation of texts enabled the readers of the Additional manuscript to imagine the household as an idealised realm of bodily control and perfect living.

in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France
‘Pears on a willow’?
Nadine Kuipers

This chapter offers a broad perspective on the tradition of agricultural and estates management literature in England that affords special consideration to the books in which works belonging to this tradition circulated. Examining texts dating from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries, Kuipers determines that, whereas the earliest agricultural texts would seem to have little to do with the practicalities of farming, treating instead the legal or administrative aspects of landownership, or offering instruction in the French and Latin necessary to participate in the written culture of landowning, later texts demonstrate an increasing interest in practical matters. This interest would culminate in such sixteenth-century manuals as Fitzherbert’s Boke of Husbandry (1523), which contains long descriptions of farming tools for the uninitiated gentleman farmer. In the period directly before the introduction of the early modern manuals, there flourished a kind of hybrid agricultural and estates management text that gestured towards practicality as well as serving other social and aesthetic purposes. Kuipers examines the circulation of a selection of these texts in manuscript household books and discusses the ramifications of their compilation alongside works belonging to other genres, principally romances and conduct texts.

in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France
Editors: and

This collection of nine new chapters investigates how the late medieval household acts as a sorter, user, and disseminator of different kinds of ready information, from the traditional and authoritative to the innovative and newly made. Building on established work on the noble and royal ‘great household’, as well as on materialist historiography on rural and bourgeois domestic life, Household Knowledges considers bourgeois, gentry, and collegiate households on both sides of the English Channel. Arguing that the relationship between the domestic experience and the forms assumed by that experience’s cultural expression is both dynamic and reciprocal, the chapters in this volume address a range of cultural productions, including conduct texts, romances and comic writing, agricultural and estates management literature, devotional and medical writing, household music and drama, and manuscript anthologies. Contributors develop a range of methodologies, drawing on insights generated by recent manuscript scholarship as well as on innovations in affect theory and object relations theory; their chapters reconsider the constitution of the late-medieval urban and gentry home by practices of writing and reading, translation and language use, and manuscript compilation, as well as by the development of complex object–human relations and the adaptation of traditional gender and class roles. Together, the studies compiled in Household Knowledges provide a fresh illustration of the imaginative scope of the late medieval household, of its extensive internal and external connections, and of its fundamental centrality—both as an idea and a reality—to late-medieval cultural production.

Sarah Stanbury

Household music constitutes the focus of this chapter, which treats the lost ‘soundworld’ evoked in the Chaucerian text. Whereas criticism of the last poem in the Canterbury Tales has typically focused on what it has to say about the vexed relationship between language and power, Stanbury affords new attention to the intermingled melodies of birdsong and ‘minstralyce’, or musical instruments, that filled Phebus’s house prior to his crisis. The chapter presents a richly nuanced understanding of this atmosphere, discussing topics ranging from Chaucer’s enhancement of the musical interest of his tale as he discovered it in his sources, to the musicality of the poet and his peers, the shifting relationship between poetry and music in the fourteenth century, and the late medieval practice of keeping—and caging—songbirds. If, as Paul Strohm has suggested, Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales to imagine an alternative community after he had lost his home in London, then, Stanbury argues, the Manciple’s Tale might be viewed as a poignant record of the vibrant household world filled with music and song whose loss the poet lamented.

in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France
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The home life of information
Glenn Burger
and
Rory Critten

The introduction presents the question addressed by contributors to the volume: in what ways could the late-medieval household act as a sorter, user, and disseminator of different kinds of ready information, from the traditional and authoritative to the innovative and newly made? It reviews extant scholarship on the household, and it summarises each of the contributors’ chapters.

in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France
Elite women in Caxton’s Book of the Knight of the Tower
Elliot Kendall

Kendall examines William Caxton’s translation of the Livre du chevalier de la Tour-Landry (1371), the Book of the Knight of the Tower (1484), picking out the social conservatism of Caxton’s Book, which situates women in a clearly subservient position within their households and vis-à-vis their husband’s knowledge and authority. Kendall’s study constitutes an object lesson in the principle that knowledge does not always equal power: the learning that Caxton serves up to his women readers directs them towards a recognition of the supposed limitations to their competence and confines their potential influence over their household’s members to the more thorough inculcation of these limitations. At the same time, Kendall is alert to the complex strategies deployed in the Book with the aim of making this unprepossessing deal palatable. Reading the Book against itself, Kendall uncovers tensions at the heart of its conception of companionate marriage regarding, for example, the place of violence within the household. This subtle re-reading of the Book of the Knight of the Tower thus highlights aspects of the text liable to have provoked resistant reactions among the audience of Caxton’s translation.

in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France
The case of Le Menagier de Paris
Glenn Burger

Presenting itself as a collection of useful advice collected by an old husband for his young wife, the Menagier de Paris (c. 1394) offers a masterclass on domestic knowledge consumption, processing, production, and retransmission. While the majority of criticism on this text focuses on its more tightly structured first section, which anthologises a range of popular exempla relating to ideal conduct within the home, Burger also considers its looser second section, which sets an allegorical poem alongside a mix of culinary, horticultural, and husbandry texts. Thus Burger is able to show how the instruction offered by the husband develops out of a lesson on the correct sorting and interpretation of a pre-established canon of advice texts to include a demonstration of the creative work of adaptation and reformation that precedes the application of authoritative precepts in a given, local context. On this reading, the Menagier de Paris is revealed to be not only a vital repertory of information pertinent to the running of a late medieval household but also a manual including instruction in the best ways to use, perpetuate, and proliferate household knowledges as such.

in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France