• Insult and society in the twelfth century

      Pickles, Thomas; Copley, Dale E. (University of Chester, 2019-08-14)
      This thesis is a study of insult in the Historia ecclesiastica of Orderic Vitalis (b. 1075- d. 1142). It argues that the culturally specific nature of insult means we can learn more about a society by studying its insults. Studying insult in the Historia ecclesiastica can tell us something about Norman society in the twelfth century. This thesis is unusual in studying insult through a narrative source. Methodological assumptions made in the study of insult using documentary evidence must be adapted for this new context. This thesis first creates a dataset of insults through a line-by-line reading of the text. This dataset is then analysed as a whole – to survey the nature of the insults Orderic uses and the rhetorical purposes insult serves in the text. This process informs further research questions. For each subsequent research question a selection is made from the dataset and is analysed using close reading. The methodology created to study insult in the Historia ecclesiastica has potential for use in studying other topics and using other medieval narratives. Studying insult in a single narrative source means this thesis can also tell us something about the Historia ecclesiastica and Orderic’s authorial project. A typographical survey of insult suggests it served four main rhetorical purposes in Orderic’s work; it was a key tool in explaining the causation of events; it helped with characterisation of some of the text’s main protagonists; it was a key part of Orderic’s adherence to certain specific genre of writing incorporated with the wider historical genre of the EH; and it helped Orderic to fulfil the medieval requirement that writing should entertain. This thesis argues that the rhetorical use of insult in Orderic’s text developed out of the use of ethologia – character portraits – a convention Orderic inherited from earlier medieval authors and the Classical canon. Insult proved for Orderic the more useful rhetorical tool. Analysis in the second half of the thesis focuses on the impact of studying insult for our understanding of three areas of medieval life; medieval emotion, concepts of honour and vengeance, and the chivalric code. Studying insult and emotion in the Historia ecclesiastica suggests emotion in the medieval world could be both performatively deployed and truly felt. Studying insult and honour suggests it is possible to define Norman society as an honour society with an active feud culture. And studying insult and chivalry suggests that we can speak of a chivalric culture in the high medieval period albeit one with a distinctive twelfthcentury identity. The selection of these three research questions speaks to the potential of insult for studying both internal experience and its outward expression. One of the most interesting implications of studying insult is its power to recognise the social structures in medieval society without reducing medieval people to actors with no agency. Insult is a ‘field’ of contest for the renegotiation of cultural ideals and norms so studying insult has the potential to track changes in behavioural codes across time and place.