Seminar Two

Poetry, Patronage, Courts

Patronage is almost the sine qua non of medieval literary production, and it is important to understand this in considering the rhetoric of how texts position and characterize themselves.  But the relations between patrons, writers, texts and what they commemorate are complex and multi-directional.  Here we look at prologue strategies and their relation to literary history and also consider a text that can be seen, in part, as a meditation on courtly patronage.  We need, too, to give some thought to the kinds of centres and distribution networks within which writers could acquire patrons.


Ian Short, ‘Patrons and Polyglots: French Literature in Twelfth-Century England’, Anglo-Norman Studies 14 (1991), pp. 229-49.   (The classic study and starting point of much subsequent work: this journal is available in Walsh at DA195. B39).

Elizabeth Salter, English and International:  ch. 1, Cultural patterns in twelfth-century England (E-res)


  1. Marie de France, Lanval  (translation from Burgess and Busby, 2nd edition, 1999, if possible, as on your initial booklist of Primary Texts).
  2. The Voyage of St Brendan (trans. Glyn S. Burgess, in Burgess and Barron: see your initial Booklist: both the translation and the edition of the French by Short and Merrilees are on reserve).
  3. The History of St Edward the King by Matthew Paris, tr. Thelma Fenster and J. Wogan-Browne, FRETS 1 (Tempe AZ: ACMERS, 2008). (JWB has a spare copy which can be lent if needed)


General:  All to read the article by Short and the chapter by Salter: all to read and note the primary texts and come prepared to discuss them.  We will need some discussion openers: people giving short presentations (5 minutes) to open up the discussion topics.  For Edward the King, there is some information in the Introduction, but in addition to looking at that and the translation, note that the manuscript (Cambridge University Library MS. Ee.3.59)   You can see the illustrations (often with fascinatingly different emphases from the text) on screen as you read.  If you are interested in this area, a very good example of reading text and illustration together is the article by Baswell listed under Further Reading below.

Presentation and Discussion Topics:

  1. The representation of Arthurian courtly life and courtly power in Marie de France’s Lanval: celebration or critique?
  2. Literature fit for queens? Consider Brendan as an offering to Henry I’s queens, Edith Matilda and Adeliza of Louvain.  Is this literature of piety/ romance/adventure/ or?  Fit for a queen?
  3. The king’s courtly body: consider Matthew Paris’s representation of Edward the Confessor and his kingship: what kind of modelling of king and body politic is on offer here?


  1. See separate Bibliography on Marie de France and Lanval (circulated by email): there is an enormous amount written on Marie de France, probably too much, and this (far from exhaustive) Bibliography is given simply so that you can see the shape of the field. Items of special relevance to our seminar are asterisked on the Bibliography.  There is a useful on-line bibliography by the Archives d’AHLIMA.
  2. For Brendan see the bibliography in Barron and Burgess, and for context see the forthcoming chapter by Thomas O’Donnell for the Cambridge History of Early Literature(photocopy distributed at Seminar One).
  3. For The History of St Edward the King, see:
    •  Binski, Paul, Becket’s Crown: Art and Imagination in Gothic England, 1170-1350(New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004) (book on reserve)
    • Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995)   (on reserve)
    • Huntington, Joanna, ‘Edward the Celibate, Edward the Saint: Virginity in the Construction of Edward the Confessor’, in Medieval Virginities, ed. Anke Bernau, Ruth Evans and Sarah Salih (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2003),  pp. 119-39. (on E-res)
    • Baswell, Christopher, ‘King Edward and the Cripple’ in Chaucer and the Challenges of Medievalism: Studies in Honour of H.A. Kelly, ed. Donka Minkova and Theresa Tinkle (Frankfurt: P. Lang, 2003). (on E-res)