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Title: Morals and manners in twelfth-century England : 'Urbanus Magnus' and courtesy literature
Author: Whelan, Fiona Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 374X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis investigates the twelfth-century Latin poem entitled Urbanus magnus or 'The Book of the Civilised Man', attributed to Daniel of Beccles. This is a poem dedicated to the cultivation of a civilised life, aimed primarily at clerics although its use extends to nobility, and specifically the noble householder. This thesis focuses on the text as a primary source for an understanding of social life in medieval England, and uses the content of the text to explore issues such as the medieval household, social hierarchy, the body, and food and diet. Urbanus magnus is commonly referred to as a 'courtesy text'. This thesis seeks to understand Urbanus magnus outside of that attribution, and to situate the text in the context of twelfth and thirteenth-century England. Thus far, scholarship of courtesy literature has focused on later texts such as thirteenth-century vernacular 'courtesy texts' or humanist works as exemplified by Erasmus's De civilitate morum puerilium. This scholarship looks back to the twelfth century and sees texts such as Urbanus magnus as 'early Latin courtesy texts'. This teleological view relegates such earlier texts to positions at the genesis of the genre and blindly assumes that they belong to the corpus of 'courtesy literature'. This neglects both their individual importance and their respective origins. This thesis examines Urbanus magnus as a didactic text which contains elements of 'courtesy literature', but also displays moral and ethical concerns. At the heart of the thesis is the question: should Urbanus magnus be considered as part of the genre of courtesy literature? This question does not have a simple answer, but this thesis shows that some elements and sections of Urbanus magnus do conform to the characteristics of courtesy literature. However, there are further sections that reflect other literary traditions. In addition to morals and ethics, Urbanus magus reflects other genres such as satire, and also reveals social issues in twelfth-century England such as the rise of anti-curiale sentiment and resentment of upward social mobility. This thesis provides an examination of Urbanus magnus through the most prevalent themes in the text. Firstly, it explores the dynamics of the medieval household, along with issues such as social mobility and hierarchy. Secondly, it focuses on the depiction of the body and bodily restraint, covering topics such as speech, bodily emissions, and sexual activity. Thirdly, it discusses food and diet, including table manners, food consumption, and dietary effects of foodstuffs. The penultimate chapter looks at the manuscript dissemination of the text to investigate the different uses which Urbanus magnus found in subsequent centuries. The delineation of Urbanus magnus as part of the genre of courtesy literature ignores the social, cultural, and literary impact on the creation of the text. In response, this thesis has two aims. The first is to minimise the notion of genre, and treat Urbanus magnus as a text in its own right, and as a product of the twelfth century. The second shows that Urbanus magnus reflects both continuity and change in society in England following the Norman Conquest.
Supervisor: Smith, Lesley Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Courtesy books--England--History--To 1500 ; Didactic poetry ; Latin (Medieval and modern)--History and criticism ; Literature and society--Great Britain--History--To 1500 ; England--Social life and customs--1066-1485 ; Great Britain--History--1066-1485