Seminar Three


The indisputable importance of lordship in the Middle Ages is too often represented in a congealed modern stereotype of ‘the feudal system’, and it often also tends to be thought of in purely secular terms.   In this seminar we use literary and other texts for a more nuanced look at what lordship offers and exacts for medieval people and at some medieval reflections on and representations of lordship, supported by selected background reading on lordship.  We will read, in two challenging texts, ethical and satirical reflection on politics in the world of the beast fable; a famous devotional treatise debating the rights and wrongs of Christ’s redemption of humanity in terms of what is and is not permitted to lordship; we will also look at an extract from a handbook of estate management.  (This seminar also provides some basis for a question about the gendering of lordship that may well recur as we think later in the course about female foundresses: is lordship always male in the Middle Ages?)


1. Marie de France, selections from the  Fables (Prologue and Epilogue plus nos. 11a and b, 16, 18, 19, 29, 36, 46, 62, 89), ed. and trans. Harriet Spiegel, The Fables of Marie de France, ed. and trans. Harriet Spiegel, Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching 32 (Toronto, 1994). ISBN 080207636X.   (The selected fables are on E-res, but you are advised – as in the initial booklist for the course- to have your own copy of this paperback if at all possible).

2. Robert Grosseteste, Chasteau d’Amour: trans. Evelyn A. Mackie, “Robert Grosseteste’s Anglo-Norman Treatise on the Loss and Restoration of Creation, commonly known as Le Château d’amour: An English Prose Translation” in Maura O’Carroll (ed.), Robert Grosseteste and the Beginnings of a British Theological Tradition, Papers delivered at the Grosseteste Colloguium held at Greyfriars, Oxford on 3rd July 2002 (Rome: Instituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 2003), pp. 152-179, with selected passages in the original [E-res].  The prologue will also be sent in the original with a translation by email, together with a transcription of one of the Middle English versions of theChasteau.  You do not need to translate the passages in the original: they are supplied so you can look at their diction and vocabulary in some key passages for our topic.

3. ‘ The Rules of Robert Grosseteste’ for the Countess of Lincoln together with a short extract from Walter of Henley, The Seneschaucie with facing page translation from Caxton, from Dorothy Oschinsky, ed., Walter of Henley and Other Treatises on Estates Management and Accounting(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971).  [E-res].


1. Consider the form and the nature of Marie de France’s representations of lordship in the Fables(read all those listed, but focus on a small selection for the purposes of paper-giving). How powerful do you find her work as ethical and political analysis and why?

2. Consider the relations between jurisprudential and devotional discourses in Grosseteste’sChasteau d’amour.  What kind of model of lordship is offered here?

3. Read the selections from Grosseteste’s Reules and compare briefly with the Seneschaucieextract. What assumptions about lordship are revealed and what kinds of social formation for lords is effected by these texts?

FURTHER READING (items of particular helpfulness for this seminar are starred)

1.    In addition to the Marie de France Bibliography for Seminar Two, see

Amer, Sahar. Esope au féminin: Marie de France et la politique de l’interculturalité.  (Amsterdam/Atlanta: Rodopi, 1999): an important study of Marie de France as a translator of Eastern materials: not directly on our topic for this seminar, but good for work on Marie de France, especially with reference to the Fables tradition. Not in Walsh, alas, but some informative online reviews by Matilda Tobyn Bruckner and by Karen Jambeck can be googled.

Susan Crane. “How to Translate a Werewolf,” in The Medieval Translator 10, ed. Jacqueline Jenkins and Olivier Bertrand (Brepols, 2007), pp. 365-74 (from important current work on animals in the Middle Ages).

Jill Mann. From Aesop to Renard: Beast Literature in Medieval Britain (on-line in Walsh).

Dorothy Yamamoto. The Boundaries of the Human in the Middle Ages  (on-line in Walsh).

Jan Ziolkowski. Talking Animals: Medieval Latin Beast Poetry,  750-1150(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993).

Logan E. Whalen. Marie de France and the Poetics of Memory (Catholic University of America Press, 2008), has a chapter on the Fables (the book is online in Walsh).

2. Grosseteste,  Le Chasteau d’Amour

Editions: Jessie Murray in 1918 and Matthew Cooke (1852): a new edition by Evelyn Mackie is forthcoming.

Bennett, Adelaide, ‘A Book Designed for a Noblewoman: An Illustrated Manuel des péchés of the Thirteenth Century’, in Medieval Book Production: Assessing the Evidence, ed. Linda L. Brownrigg (Los Altos: Anderson-Lovelace, 1990), pp. 163-76. A very good analaysis of Taylor MS 1, i.e Baroness Joan de Tatershul’s copy of the Manuel des pecchez and of Grosseteste: notable for its imaging of patroness-cleric relations. (essay is on E-res)

*Marx, C. William, The Devil’s Rights and the Redemption in the Literature of Medieval England (Woodbridge and Rochester: Boydell and Brewer, 1995). Crucial and helpful theological and related background plus useful descriptions of theChasteau manuscripts (extracts from the book on E-res).

Whitehead, Christiania, ‘A Fortress and a Shield: The Representation of the Virgin in the ‘Château d’Amour’ of Robert Grosseteste’, in Writing Religious Women, ed.C. Whitehead and D. Renevey (Cardiff and Toronto: University of Wales Press, 2000), pp. 109-32.  (book on reserve). Note that Whitehead also has a very good book on figurative edifice allegory in general, Castles of the Mind: A Study of Architectural Allegory (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2003).

Southern, R. W.  Robert Grosseteste: The Growth of an English Mind in Medieval Europe (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986 repr 1992).

3.  For the ‘Reules seynt Roberd’  and the Seneschaucie

For historical background:  K. Mertes, The English Noble Household 1250-1600 (Oxford 1988), ch. I.

C. M. Woolgar, The Great Household in Late Medieval England (New Haven, 1999).

For a literary study:
Vance Smith, Arts of Possession: The Middle English Household Imaginary(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003).

On the Reules themselves: Burger, Michael. ” The date and authorship of Robert Grosseteste’s Rules for Household and Estate Management.” Historical Research74, no. 183 (2001): 106-116.   [1987 ed online at Walsh].

Louise J. Wilkinson, ‘The Rules of Robert Grosseteste Reconsidered : The Lady as Estate and Household Manager in Thirteenth-Century England’, in The Medieval Household in Christian Europe, c. 850-c. 1550: Managing Power, Wealth and the Body, ed. Cordelia Beattie Anna Maslakovic and Sarah Rees Jones (Turnhout: Brepols, 2003), pp. 293-306.  (Book on reserve).

*A study of general importance for multilingualism and of specific importance agrarian estates is Richard Ingham, ‘Mixing Languages on the Manor’, Medium Aevum 78.1 (2009), 80-97.

4. On lordship

P.J.P. Goldberg, Medieval England: A Social History 1250-1550 (London, 2005), chs. 7 and 9 on peasants and on lords. (on E-res)

Crouch, David, The Image of Aristocracy in Britain, 1000-1300 (London and New York: Routledge, 1992). (book on reserve)

Note: it is almost always worth looking up anyone whom one might reasonably suppose to be in there in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography on-line.  The ODNB entries for Grosseteste and for Margaret de Lacy Countess of Lincoln are good and helpful, though, as always, entries for medieval women take some cunning and persistence to find (one often has to go via their fathers or husbands).