This collection and the romances it investigates are crucial to our understanding of the aesthetics of medieval narrative and to the ideologies of gender and sexuality, race, religion, political formations, social class, ethics, morality and national identity with which those narratives emerge.
-emphasised the mutuality between parties, that is, between donor(s) and beneficiary, could be symbolic and
were usually voluntary.2 This approach is similar to that of Barbara
Rosenwein, who stressed the relationships between donors which were
created when gifts were exchanged.3 Dominique Barthélemy argues that
socialclass was exhibited when precious objects such as gold rings were
exchanged.4 Stephen White also argues that the social context of gift
exchange is important because countergifts were tangible expressions of
specific social hierarchies and served to define the
figures: all are distinct from contemporary trends. Each countess was therefore making a public statement of individuality, status and
lineage, as well as reflecting distinctive tastes in their cultural patronage.
It is also notable that they imaged their matrilineal ancestry, rather than
their father’s lineage.
As the twelfth century progressed and sealing practice became more
widespread through the socialclasses, and thus as women of the lesser
nobility used seals, so there is more variety in detail, even humour, with
the use of zoomorphic images upon women’s seals
Socio-cultural considerations of intellectual disability
Stereotypes of socialclass, especially alleged rusticity, also abounded in connection with ID. The medieval peasant often was an object of contempt and derision to his contemporaries, described as rough, dirty, boorish and foolish. One may note here the image of the ‘stupid’ peasant, referring to the entire class of peasants, not just individuals, as being mentally less able than their social superiors. ‘Peasants were supposed to be stupid, an enduring image of the countryman common across boundaries and time.’ 104 Boorish , of course, is the adjective pertaining to the
different socialclasses. One of the best in his view was a poor, typically illiterate peasant from the Valley of Lanzo, which place, he says in passing, had by long-standing tradition the mission of providing Turin with servants and wine porters. 3 Edmondo De Amicis wrote in a similar vein in his Military Life ( Vita militare ) of 1880, where he spoke of the harsh lives of the good people of the mountains to the west of Turin. He listed the valleys and their numerous towns, recalling how their sons came down each winter to be wine porters or wood cutters, or to go
good life. And although this triad may appear to be about three socialclasses, that is not the case, because most of those in the upper tiers of the clerical order came from families of the fighting order. The bishops as well as the abbots and abbesses who headed religious houses were virtually all siblings or close relatives of kings and queens, counts and countesses, and so on. Indeed some abbots and abbesses proclaimed proudly that in their monastic communities there were no members who did not come from noble families. Meanwhile most priests were peasants who
political power and expression of civic responsibility. It also provided an opportunity for the cities’ gradual emancipation from the authority of ecclesiastical powers. Lay and semi-religious groups who founded and administered hospitals became integral players in the political arena.
Roisin Cossar gives us the most compelling study to date of the intersection of religion, community, socialclass, and political power within the Italian city-state of the Middle Ages. 45 She emphasizes the importance of understanding the increased participation
who their third cousins were. But Italy may have been quite different. Extended clans were a strong feature of social life. These massive clans transcended socialclass and the gulf between city and contado. They extended beyond true blood relationship: they were ‘imagined kinship communities’ though with a large basis in objective blood relationship. Their potential for social disruption was huge. The ‘four degree’ rule, however, must have encouraged marriage outside the clan. According to the leading authority on Italian clans the principle of exogamy was in
This was not simple social emulation by the new socialclasses created by economic opportunity, but rather a more complex phenomenon. Several scholars have argued against a theory of social emulation in the Middle Ages, among them Gardiner (Gardiner, 2000 ; Rees Jones, 2008 ). Regarding England, Gardiner states against the theory of social emulation that:
Pearson has noted that in Kent the wealthy yeomen were in the vanguard of innovation in the early 16th century. They were able to be more innovative in
, with seeking to identify a specific locus of power in medieval society, or with extrapolating conclusions about individual socialclasses. While these objectives are meritorious, they tend to isolate elements of John’s theories indiscriminately without evaluating his perspective as a whole. By emphasising instead the role of duties and the reciprocal relationships between members of the polity that result from a natural extension of care from the self to others, the perspective presented here takes into account the subtleties of the individual relationships between