1st Edition

Courtly Pastimes

Edited By Gloria Allaire, Julie Human Copyright 2023
    256 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The modern concept of passing leisure hours pleasantly would, in the Middle Ages, have fallen under the rubric of Sloth, a deadly sin. Yet aristocrats of past centuries were not always absorbed in affairs of state or warfare. What did they do in moments of peace, "downtime" as we might call it today? In this collection of essays, scholars from various disciplines investigate courtly modes of entertainment ranging from the vigorous to the intellectual: hunting, jousting, horse racing; physical and verbal games; reading, writing, and book ownership. Favorite pastimes spanned differences of gender and age, and crossed geographical and cultural boundaries. Literary and historical examples come from England, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy.


    Courtly Pastimes analyzes the underlying rationales for such activities: to display power and prestige, to acquire cultural capital, to instill a sense of community, or to build diplomatic alliances. Performativity − so crucial in social rituals − could become transgressive if taken to extremes. Certain chapters explore the spaces of courtliness: literal or imaginary; man-made, natural, or a hybrid of both. Other chapters concern materiality and visual elements associated with courtly pastimes: from humble children’s toys and playthings to elite tournament attire, castle murals, and manuscript illuminations.


    Gloria Allaire, University of Kentucky

    1. The Emergence of Courtliness in Wace᾿s Roman de Brut and Roman de Rou: Pastimes of the Rulers of Brittany and the Dukes of Normandy

    Laurence Mathey-Maille, Université du Havre

    2. Performing the Embrace: Intertextuality in Bernard de Clairvaux’s Sermons on the Song of Songs and Chrétien de Troyes’ Erec et Enide

    Jeanne A. Nightingale, Miami University of Ohio

    3. Tower, Bower, Garden, and Forest: Hide-and-Seek for Courtly Lovers

    Janina P. Traxler, Manchester University, Indiana

    4. Marie de France at Play: Equitan as Courtly Diversion or Carnivalesque Subversion?

    Monica L. Wright, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

    5. Courtly Pastimes and Nature in Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan: Reading Ecology and Hybridity

    Christopher R. Clason, Oakland University

    6. Sî jehent er lebe noch hiute: Courtly Play and Places of Imagination in Thirteenth-Century German Mural Cycles

    Alexandra Sterling-Hellenbrand, Appalachian State University

    7. Fishing for Meaning: Immersive Reading and the Codex Manesse Frontispieces

    D. Lyle Dechant. DePauw University

    8. The Apotheosis of Provençal Fin’amors in Alfonso X’s Marian Poetry

    Joseph T. Snow, Michigan State University

    9. The Performance of Courtliness in the Dits of Guillaume de Machaut

    Sara Sturm-Maddox, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

    10. Blind Man’s Buff: From Children᾿s Games to Pleasure Gardens in the Late Middle Ages

    Kristen M. Figg, Kent State University

    11. Amorous and Poetic Games in Christine de Pizan’s Queen’s Manuscript

    (London, British Library, MS Harley 4431)

    Lori J. Walters, The Florida State University

    12. Medieval(ist) Pastimes, or What’s a Belle dame Doing in a Place like Hatfield House?

    Joan E. McRae, Middle Tennessee State University

    13. Performative Courtliness in Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur

    Shawn Phillip Cooper, Oakland Community College

    14. Ritual, Public Pageantry, and Urban Justice: The Seizaine de mai of Bourges

    Donald Maddox, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

    15. Ritterspiele: The Spectacle of the Courtly Tournament in Late Medieval Germany

    Natalie Anderson, Independent Scholar

    16. Bayard / Baiardo: The Equine Protagonist from French Chansons de geste to Italian Chivalric Poems

    Maurizio Mazzoni, Independent Scholar

    List of Contributors


    Gloria Allaire is Associate Professor of Italian at the University of Kentucky. Her primary research interest has been Italian chivalric literature of the late Middle Ages. She has presented over 50 conference papers and published 45 articles or book chapters. Her seven books include Andrea da Barberino and the Language of Chivalry (University Press of Florida, 1997); two Italian prose Tristan editions with facing-page English translations (D. S. Brewer, 2002 and 2015); The Arthur of the Italians [. . .], co-edited with F. Regina Psaki (University of Wales Press, 2014); and an essay collection, The Italian Novella (Routledge, 2003).


    Julie Human is Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Kentucky, where she directs the French language program and teaches courses ranging from accelerated beginning French to graduate seminars on medieval literature. Her research focuses on the intersections of pedagogy and gender in medieval French literature, particularly Arthurian romance. She has recently published on teaching the lais of Marie de France through performance and is currently working on a project on specularity in medieval French romance.