- Zwischen Pragmatik und Performanz: Dimensionen mittelalterlicher Schriftkultur ed. by Christoph Dartmann, Thomas Scharff, and Christoph Friedrich Weber
The seventieth birthday of history scholar Hagen Keller coincided with the presentation in Münster in 2007 of some two-year-long research projects on the interaction of written and symbolic communication in medieval culture. This book is a compilation of the papers from this colloquium to [End Page 228] commemorate Keller's birthday and his impact on this field of study. It includes several additions to the papers that were presented, encompassing history, legitimacy, political environment, and cultural and social symbolism in communication from the Carolingian era to the later Middle Ages.
Christoph Dartmann's Introduction does much to frame the scope of the sixteen articles that cover many dimensions of medieval written culture, as the title of the book describes, from the symbolic to the strictly practical. He poses the example of Mozart's operas, Cosi fan Tutti and Le nozze di Figaro, to illustrate long traditions of literacy, power, and control. A central theme in these papers is the communication process of symbolic power, and the influence of Keller's recent work on the public ritual of granting charters by a sovereign in the Ottonian Holy Roman Empire is represented especially in the articles of Gerd Althoff, Thomas Scharff, and Michael Jucker. This sphere is expanded chronologically to encompass the broader Middle Ages, and geographically to France and Saxon England. A major accomplishment of this collection of articles is that it is itself both a product and a continuation of the effect of scholarship on the study of history, namely the influence and practice of medieval written culture and communication.
Although there are no sub-sections to categorize these papers, the articles are arranged in the book chronologically, and the majority of the articles can be seen as pertaining to the themes of the presentation sessions. The session on political communication in medieval France is represented in this volume by François Bougard's article on the communication of power in sovereign acts, oaths, and decrees of Charles the Bald, Berengar I, and Hugh of Provence. Bougard identifies political motives for the references between Byzantine and Carolingian sovereigns, and makes a case for a 'mise-en-situation' approach to the study of such documents. At the end the book, two more articles return the focus to France. Martin Kintzinger's article treats the book collection initiative of Charles V in fourteenth-century France, and Petra Schulte's article looks at the tapestry of Charles V, Los Honores of 1522, and its implications to written text and political and sovereign power.
The theme of literacy, writing, and memory as tools of power furthers the concept of constructing and gaining legitimacy in the medieval political landscape. It is framed by Janet Nelson's article, 'Writing Power', that makes a convincing case for the interdisciplinary study of how power was constructed, manipulated, and connected to ideas. She draws together the habits and actions of scribes of charters and charter witnesses from Italy to France to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, considering propaganda campaigns, ecclesiastical rights and property, forgery, and the context of transmission of laws and charters. [End Page 229]
Chris Wickham's article on twelfth-century Roman justice compares the modernizing influences of Roman reforms and power-play between the papacy and the curia from the tenth to the twelfth centuries, challenging the idea that traditional Roman political institutions were undermined by foreign influences, and posing the idea of an 'overarching metanarrative' approach to the study of Roman legal documentation.
Walter Pohl's article examines the forward-thinking chroniclers in the relation of the founding of the monastery of Montecassino by St Benedict and the impact of the written word. Twelfth-century chroniclers are shown to reconstruct the monastery's past by overlooking the more recent sacking of the monastery by Saracens in...