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Blogging Kalamazoo 2021 – Session 29 - The English outside of England

Monday, May 10, 2021 - 09:26

I dithered between two sessions—neither being recorded—in this time-slot. The one I didn’t choose was #28 Homosocial Communities and Seclusion, because there was only one paper that looked like it might possibly be related to relationship potential in homosocial environments. (What can I say, I have highly specific interests.) Instead I chose this session, which looks at several topics relating to cross-cultural interactions during travel. This is the sort of information I file away in my “compost-heap memory” where it may later serve to add verisimilitude in a story about characters on the road.

Nuns on the Run: The Sisters of Syon Abbey and Their Links with Continental Europe, 1415-1580 - Virginia Rosalyn Bainbridge, Univ. of Exeter

Starts with a brief background on the exile of Syon Abbey after the dissolution of the abbeys. Bainbridge is involved in a prosopography project to trace the lives of the members of the abbey in this context. [Insert Brexit joke relating to Henry VIII’s break with Rome.] Touches on the importance of personal/familial connections among personnel and supporters of Syon Abbey with respect to these changes. The “links with the continent” referenced in the title are an extensive catalog of these personal/familial connections that led to the founding, expansion, and transition of the institution. (I’m not going to try to take notes on details.)

Cursing, Haggling, and Choosing an Inn in French: Vignettes of Travel and Daily Life in the Manières de langage of 1396, 1399, and 1415 - Martha Carlin, U. of Wisonsin-Milwaukee

(This is the paper that most caught my attention. Her powerpoint won’t open so she’s winging it.) This genre of literature were intended to be guidebooks for foreign students, but they also include extensive dialogues (perhaps intended as phrasebooks) which provide detailed views of daily life. They include ordinary activities of interest to travelers, with valuable examples of ordinary speech and conversation. [Hey, authors of historical fiction – this should be invaluable to you!] But what prompted the collection of texts during this particular period? Around 1396 three was a lull in hostilities between England and France, with some significant high-level contacts around royal alliances, so this may have been the context for providing English travelers with guidance.

Scene: a lord with a brand new townhouse sends his servants out to buy furnishings, provisions, clothing, and other supplies. Focus is on vocabulary, but provides a picture of household needs.

Scene: the lord is preparing a short journey to Paris on business and instructs his servant to make arrangements to prepare the horses, as well as ordering a fine dinner before leaving. There is an example of giving travel directions. The servant is sent on ahead to secure lodgings in Paris and has a vivid exchange with the innkeeper, whom he knows personally. There is a discussion of what makes good versus bad lodgings. The servant then goes to the market to buy the makings of dinner and returns to the inn to prepare them. (Note that the innkeepers neither supply nor prepare the food!) The lord, on arriving, inspects the “young ladies” that the inn-wife has available for companionship and selects one to share his dinner. The lord supplies spiced wine and entertainment including dancing for all the gentle people at the inn, and then takes the young lady to bed. The lord gives the inn staff lavish gifts and then departs.

Scene: A similar encounter shows what traveling is like for people of the lower classes (possibly two of the servants of the previous lord). Significant contrasts with the lord’s experience! Also: implications of an erotic overture between the two (male) servants that is refused.

The texts are extremely valuable resources for the lives of servants and the lower class, who are poorly represented in other genres of text. Alas, these manuscripts have not yet been published in English translation.

For those who might like to follow up on this genre of text, here are some links I found – these are not related directly to the paper being presented.

WorldCat listing for a 1995 edition of the texts.

Reference to a journal article with translated extracts. Free access to pdf download.

A blog looking at some brief passages as an example of Anglo-Norman language.

The English Hospice in Rome: Home away from Home

Joel T. Rosenthal, Stony Brook University

English pilgrimages to Rome were popular as early as the 5th century and have a long and continuous history. English travelers were not always well treated as visitors, which inspired the establishment of an English hospice (lost track of dates, maybe in the 14th century?) which resulted in an English expatriate community being established there. There are detailed records of visitors from certain periods, including the late 15th century, which give us a useful picture of the pilgrims. Mostly middling class, mostly men, lots of clergy. But overall quite a diversity. To some extent, going on pilgrimage was an “entertainment” for those who were able to do it. But “those who were able” included members of mendicant religious orders, so money wasn’t the only issue. After England’s break with Rome, the hospice transforms from a travelers’ residence to a college for training English Catholic personnel in exile. Lots of anecdotal examples from the registers, and a note that the English hospice still exists.

Major category: