Session 1208: Constructs of Lordship and Kingship: Early to Central Middle Ages
Wednesday 15 July 2009, 14.15-15.45
|Phyllis G. Jestice, Department of History, University of Southern Mississippi
|Bricriu Nemthenga: Exploring Medieval Irish Trickster
Index terms: Daily Life, Folk Studies, Language and Literature - Celtic, Pagan Religions
|Locating Meaning: Understanding the Meeting-Places of the Witan in 10th-Century England
Index terms: Administration, Charters and Diplomatics, Politics and Diplomacy
|Local Lords and Strategies of Contention in the Brionnais, 1050-1150
Index terms: Administration, Law, Rhetoric, Social History
Paper -a: Trickster is a common character and archetype of different mythologies and cultures, developing and changing his form and functions from amorphous being and culture hero to a buffoon and jester at the court. The role of Bricriu Nemthenga (Bricriu Poison-tongue), one of the characters of the Ulster cycle and relative of King Conchobar, does not seem to be evident. The ambivalence of this creature may resemble Sir Kay the Seneschal from Arthurian novels: he is not an enemy, but he is not a friend as well. We may consider that he represents a parody of the king and his heroes. On the other hand, he may be an example of word power that plays a great role in early medieval Celtic literature. Finally, his individual destiny and death might seem to us a ritual sacrifice - probably the most archaic element of this figure.
Paper-b: This paper investigates the locations at which the witan (i.e. the king and major magnates) met in 10th-century England in the light of recent work on 'topographies of power'. Meetings were important manifestations of royal prerogative in the landscape: only kings issued law-codes and charters at these meetings, and thus meeting-places had symbolic significance as the stages upon which kingship was enacted. This paper reviews the locations used, historically contextualizing meetings as political statements. Sometimes kings exploited existing 'places of power', such as Bath for Edgar's coronation, whilst at other times they endowed new locations with meaning, as at Kingston-upon-Thames (the typical place for 10th-century coronations).
Paper-c: I will mainly analyse documents of dispute from 11th-century Lotharingia and try to reconstruct a set of characteristics which would best define the virtues of a good lord (and by consequence the vices of a bad one) in the eyes of his contemporaries. I will also analyse the practical and legal values of referring to these virtues or vices in an ongoing or recently settled dispute. This study is related to issues of the rhetorical uses of the written word, the settlement of disputes in a 'lawless' society, and the origin of lawfulness in the lord-vassal relationship.