Performing Courtliness

E. Jane Burns

in The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe

Published in print August 2013 | ISBN: 9780199582174
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191749919 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Performing Courtliness

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  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Medieval courts can be understood as performance spaces in which courtly players, both historical composer/performers and their fictive characters, enacted complex and contradictory configurations of gender and power. From this perspective, courtly literature's constant reiteration of the established rules of love or codes of chivalric behavior might suggest not that those conventions are firmly in place but, on the contrary, that courtly literary texts assert a message of idealized and codified conduct that was actively resisted, challenged, and altered. Those alternative courtly performances were often enacted by women, whether by historical singer-composers, authors, and patrons or by a wide range of inscribed female characters in courtly texts.

Keywords: love service; courtliness; chivalry; performance; troubadours; Roman du Hem; Art of Courtly Love; Lancelot; Guenevere

Article.  8265 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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