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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 548: Social Entanglements: Friendship, Family, and Society in Medieval English Writing

Tuesday 4 July 2023, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Marco Mostert, Onderzoekinstituut voor Geschiedenis en Kunstgeschiedenis, Universiteit Utrecht
Paper 548-aViolent Families: Tension between Entanglement and Hierarchy in Laȝamon's Brut
(Language: English)
Josh Pittman, English Department, Bluefield University, Virginia
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Philosophy, Political Thought
Paper 548-bWoven Alliances: The Case of 15th-Century Gentry Letters
(Language: English)
Beatriz Breviglieri Oliveira, Departamento de História Universidade de São Paulo
Index terms: Genealogy and Prosopography, Local History, Politics and Diplomacy
Paper 548-cThomas Hoccleve and the Problem of Counternormative Poetics
(Language: English)
Scott Russell, Department of English, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Political Thought, Social History

Paper -a:
Laȝamon's Brut, as the Middle Ages did in general, conceives of social organisations as families. There is a consistent tension, however, between the hierarchically-minded poet and the fundamental interdependence of a family system. This presentation will use the phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas to understand how characters in the Brut navigate alliances and enmities, focusing on the implications of their navigation for the understanding of individuals as members of a social family. I expect to find that the Brut demonstrates the fundamental contradiction between the Britons' self-conception as a family and their anxiety about entanglements with other races.

Paper -b:
During the 15th century, different collections of letters and documents have been exchanged among gentry families and their connections, be they political or personal. From there onwards, they have been used to illustrate the social, political, and economical settings of the Wars of the Roses but it seems that the families themselves and their stories are left in the background. The aim of this paper is to give a glimpse and analyse some of the different branches of connections and alliances created by the Cely, Paston, and Plumpton families in their spheres of power and influence during the late 15th century and their direct and indirect actions into local and national affairs.

Paper -c:
I argue that Thomas Hoccleve's Series deploys figures of friendship and the loneliness of writing to explore a nascent conflation between alienation and exploitation and the reproduction of social life. I read Hoccleve as a poet of the slow and asymmetrical contest between a growing money economy, open and flexible but driven by acquisitiveness, and the inflexible feudal order which is nevertheless organised around something other than impersonal accumulation. Building on Jairus Banaji and István Mészáros's work, I will argue that Hoccleve views immediate sensation as necessary but insufficient for understanding the entanglements of history and the social world.