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Stephen D. White 5. Proposing the Ordeal and Avoiding It: Strategy and Power in Western French Litigation, 1050-1110 Every strategy of confrontation dreams of becoming a power relationship. —Michel Foucault: Introduction In around 1060, a famulus called Bunghole2 became entangled in a lawsuit with the abbey of Saint Vincent of Le Mans when, with the support of his lord, Richard of Loupfougere, he challenged the monks' right to a tithe in the village of Puizieux. In response, abbot Hugh arranged a meeting to discuss the dispute in the court of count Roger of Montgomery at Luerzon. There, in the count's absence, Bunghole offered to support his challenge against the monks by undergoing the ordeal of hot iron. On the barons' advice, abbot Hugo accepted the offer. But when he and the barons returned to Luerzon at the time appointed for the ordeal, both Bunghole and his lord Richard were absent. The barons, judging Bunghole's challenge unjust, decided that the disputed tithe "belonged fully and quietly to Saint Vincent." Even so, when Richard later quitclaimed the same tithe to the abbey, the monks reciprocated by including him in their prayers.3 Bunghole's decision to avoid an ordeal was not unusual.4 In one way 1. "The Subject and Power," Critical Inquiry 8,4 (summer1982), 777-95, here 794. 2. Pertusus. 3. F769 (1056-68). For a key to the abbreviations used in the notes, see the end of this essay. 4- The following modern discussions of trial by ordeal are particularly important for the present argument, even though none of them focuses on cancelled ordeal cases: Dominique Barthelemy, "Diversite des ordalies medievales,"RevueHistorique 280 (1988), 3-25;Barthelemy , "Presence de 1'aveu dans le deroulement des ordalies (IXe-XIIIe siecles)," Uaveu: 90 Stephen D. White or another, participants in recorded lawsuits involving western French monasteries between 1050 and mo usually avoided the unilateral ordeal of hot iron or boiling water, as well as the bilateral ordeal of battle, and they commonly did so even after an ordeal had been proposed.5 The reason , however, for examining cancelled ordeals—that is, ordeals proposed but then avoided—is not just that they evidentlyoutnumbered completed ones, but also that they sometimes illuminate distinctive political strategies of confrontation in late eleventh-century litigation and, by extension, the micro-economies of shifting power relations that underlie court hearings.6 Treating the study of medieval politics broadly as the study of power relations , I follow Foucault in assuming that "the analysisof power relations cannot be reduced to the study of a series of institutions, not even to the study of all those institutions which would merit the name 'political.5557 Instead, if "power relations are rooted deep in the social nexus55 and are not simply "reconstituted 'above5 society as a supplementary structure,558 then the study of them should not only cover the domain of politics, as conventionally defined, but should also focus, asFoucault argues, on many antiquite et moyen-age, Collection de PEcole francaise de Rome 88 (Rome, 1986), pp. 191-214; Robert Bartlett, Trial by Fire and Water: TheMedieval Judicial Ordeal (Oxford, 1986); Yvonne Bongert, Recherches sur les cours laiques du Xe au Xllle siecles (Paris, 1949), esp. pp. 211-51; Peter Brown, "Society and the Supernatural:A Medieval Change," Daedalus 104 (1975), 133— 51, reprinted with additional notes in Brown, Society and theHoly in LateAntiquity (Berkeley, CA, 1982), pp. 302-32; Olivier Guillot, "La participation au duel judicairede temoins de condition serve dans l'Ile-de-France du Xle siecle: autour d'un faux diplome de Henri ler," in Droitprive et institutions regionales: etudes historiques offertes aJean Tver (Paris, 1976), pp. 345— 60; Paul R. Hyams, "Trial by Ordeal: The Keyto Proof in the Early Common Law," in On the Laws and Customs of England: Essays in Honor of Samuel E. Thome, ed. Morris S. Arnold et al. (Chapel Hill, NC, 1981), pp. 90-126; Margaret H. Kerr, Richard K. Forsyth, and Michael J. Plyley, "Cold Water and Hot Iron: Trial by Ordeal in England," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 22 (1992), 573—96; William Ian Miller, "Ordeal in Iceland," Scandinavian Studies 60 (1988), 189-218; Charles Radding, "Superstition to Science: Nature, Fortune and the Passing of the Medieval Ordeal,"AHR 84 (1979), 945-69; Stephen D.White, "Inheritances and Legal Arguments in Western France, 1050-1150," Traditio 43 (1987), 55-103, here pp. 56, 78-82. After the present articlewascompleted, the cases it discusses from the Vendomois (from MB, MV...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780812200768
Related ISBN
9780812215557
MARC Record
OCLC
794702344
Pages
400
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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