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City and Spectacle in Medieval Europe

1994

Barbara A. Hanawalt and Kathryn L. Reyerson, editors

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Drawing examples from Spain, England, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, most of them in the fifteenth century, the contributors explore the uses of ceremony as statements of political power, as pleas for divine intercession, and as expressions of popular culture. Their essays show us spectacles meant to confirm events such as victories, the signing of a city charter, or the coronation of a king. In other circumstances, the spectacle acts as a battleground where a struggle for the control of the metaphors of power is played out between factions within cities or between cities and kings. Still other ceremonies called upon divine spiritual powers in the hope that their intervention might save the urban inhabitants.

Drawing examples from Spain, England, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, most of them in the fifteenth century, the contributors explore the uses of ceremony as statements of political power, as pleas for divine intercession, and as expressions of popular culture. Their essays show us spectacles meant to confirm events such as victories, the signing of a city charter, or the coronation of a king. In other circumstances, the spectacle acts as a battleground where a struggle for the control of the metaphors of power is played out between factions within cities or between cities and kings. Still other ceremonies called upon divine spiritual powers in the hope that their intervention might save the urban inhabitants.

Contributors; Lorraine Attreed, Brigitte Bedos-Rezak, Elizabeth A. R. Brown, Lawrence McBride Bryant, Maureen Flynn, Barbara A. Hanawalt, Bram Kempers, Sheila Lindenbaum, Ben R. McRee, James Murray, David Nicholas, Gerard Nijsten, Nancy Freeman Regalado, Kathryn L. Reyerson, and Teofilo R. Ruiz.

Barbara A. Hanawalt and Kathryn L. Reyerson’s stimulating collection of a dozen essays adds a new dimension to the debate about the nature of the medieval city in Europe. Rewarding for all scholars of medieval civic life.

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Medieval Europe is known for its sense of ceremony and drama. Knightings, tournaments, coronations, religious processions, and even private celebrations such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals were occasions for ritual, feasting, and public display. This volume is the first to take a comprehensive look at the many types of city spectacles that entertained the masses and confirmed various messages of power in late medieval Europe. Bringing together leading scholars in history, art history, and literature, this interdisciplinary collection sets new standards for the study of medieval popular culture.
Drawing examples from Spain, England, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, most of them in the fifteenth century, the authors explore the uses of ceremony as statements of political power, as pleas for divine intercession, and as expressions of popular culture. Their essays show us spectacles meant to confirm events such as victories, the signing of a city charter, or the coronation of a king. In other circumstances, the spectacle acts as a battleground where a struggle for the control of the metaphors of power is played out between factions within cities or between cities and kings. Still other ceremonies called upon divine spiritual powers in the hope that their intervention might save the urban inhabitants.
We see here a public cognizant of the power of symbols to express its goals and achievements, a society reaching the height of sophistication in its manipulation of popular and elite culture for grand shows.

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Barbara A. Hanawalt is a professor of history at the University of Minnesota, where she is director of the Center for Medieval Studies. Kathryn L. Reyerson is professor of history at the University of Minnesota.

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Barbara A. Hanawalt and Kathryn L. Reyerson’s stimulating collection of a dozen essays adds a new dimension to the debate about the nature of the medieval city in Europe. Rewarding for all scholars of medieval civic life.

Medium Ævum

These essays offer a paradigm shift away from the romantic notion of such spectacles as wholly celebratory of civic life to a recognition that undercurrents of political discord or unrest occasionally flowed through these seemingly innocent street entertainments.

Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England

If a scholar’s task is to raise more problems than he or she can solve alone, then the contributors to this volume have acquitted themselves quite well by leaving readers with lots of interesting things to ponder.

Comparative Literature Studies

The collection proves quite stimulating in its interdisciplinary approach to public ceremonial and raises a good number of issues concerning the relationship between performance, the construction of identity and the exercise of power. The distinguished historians, art-historians, and literary scholars who offer contributions advance a representative variety of theoretical methods from which to read and evaluate the historical record of performative activity. City and Spectacle will certainly aid theatre scholars in the ongoing task of understanding medieval performance of any kind in relationship to its social, political, and cultural context.

Theatre Studies