The Languages of Political Society

Western Europe, 14th-17th Centuries

Edited by Andrea Gamberini, Jean-Philippe Genet, Andrea Zorzi
Collana: I libri di Viella, 128
Pubblicazione: Novembre 2011
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pp. 496, 4 ill. b/n, 15x21 cm, bross.
ISBN: 9788883346927
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Studies of the political languages worked out in the late Middle Ages and Early Modern age have investigated up to now above all the role of the discursive practices in the construction of class and community spaces, the definition of the relation between the various institutions, and the shaping of the forms and contents of obedience to higher powers and authorities.

Gathering together the papers presented in a symposium on The Languages of the Political Society, this book widens the spectrum of analysis to take in some topics that have received less attention until now in the study of the processes of state-building in late medieval and Early Modern Europe: the formulation of the value of the common good in relation to citizenship; the linguistic, musical and theatrical vectors for expressing political relations; the control and expression of public emotions and collective feelings; and the capacity of some financial and monetary systems to translate ideals and to produce legitimacy.

The book thus intends to bring to the reader’s attention some paths of research that appear particularly promising and open to further interesting developments.

Le ricerche sui linguaggi politici elaborati nel tardo medioevo e nella prima età moderna hanno indagato finora soprattutto il ruolo delle pratiche discorsive nella costruzione di spazi cetuali e comunitari, nella definizione del rapporto tra le diverse istituzioni, nella modellizzazione delle forme e dei contenuti dell’obbedienza a poteri e autorità superiori.

Raccogliendo gli atti di un incontro di studio su The languages of the political society, il volume propone un allargamento dello spettro di indagine ad alcuni temi finora meno indagati nello studio dei processi di formazione degli stati nell’Europa tardo medievale e moderna: l’elaborazione del valore del bene comune in relazione alla cittadinanza; i vettori linguistici, musicali e teatrali per esprimere le relazioni politiche; il controllo e l’espressione delle emozioni pubbliche e dei sentimenti collettivi; la capacità di dei sistemi finanziari e monetari di tradurre idealità e di produrre legittimità.

Il volume intende dunque proporre all’attenzione dei lettori alcuni percorsi di ricerca che appaiono particolarmente promettenti e suscettibili di ulteriori interessanti sviluppi.

L’historien et les langages de la société politique
Jean-Philippe Genet

The languages of political societies have a central importance for historians of the medieval and modern periods who favour an anthropological approach. When the mounting pressure of war drives cities and kingdoms to develop new fiscal systems, they soon discover that to be easily accepted and hence profitable their demands have to be recognized as legitimate, both in their motives and in their methods of perception. This recognizance can only be achieved through a lengthy, difficult and usually disputed process, a dialogue in which propaganda plays only a minor role: legitimacy is not decided by decree: it depends upon the religious and social values on which individual subjects determine their positions. The continuous cultural transformations which are engendered both by the Gregorian Revolution and the commercial and juridical consequences of the medieval European economic growth allows the development of articulate political languages, which express in words, images and other systems of signs the values and concepts which all those detaining any kind of symbolic power try to manipulate and to turn to their advantage. When dealing with oral and written communication, the historian benefits from the recent developments of discourse analysis, corpus linguistics and the statistical techniques associated with them.


Cose in comune e bene comune. L’ideologia della comunità in Italia nel tardo medioevo
E. Igor Mineo

The centrality of the notion of "common good" in the late medieval political discourse is the centrality of a conventional principle – the quality of regimes varies according to their ability to preserve the collective good – but also of a typical equivocal locus of the common sentiment, where the uncertain relationships between individual, private "good" and public "good" were measured. The ideologies of the common good were complex because the terrain on which the ideologies and representations of the community faced off against each other were complex and full of conflict. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, very different ideas of community confronted each other and found in the works of writers like Remigio de’ Girolami and Marsilio da Padova two major poles of synthesis. In the attempts to rationalize the Italian political situation contained in their works – the situation of "crisis" of the regimes of the "people" – a prominent role is played by the construction of a new idea of "common good," increasingly abstract and indeterminate, which tends to coincide with the value of the union and temporal continuity of the community. This is an idea that conceals and casts out the perception of "things held in common," of the well-defined sphere of goods, lands, and resources, that had been at the base of the life of the community and that, within this new "common good," changed function completely.


Urban Ideologies in Later Medieval Flanders. Towards an Analytical Framework
Jan Dumolyn

Social groups, more or less consciously and reflexively, select values fundamental to their identity and interests in order to construct "ideologies" or "political languages". The urban world of the medieval county of Flanders between roughly 1100 and 1550 witnessed the rise of specific urban political languages, corresponding to the social divisions, the economic interests and the forms of political organizations developed by the city dwellers. These can be encountered in different types of legal, administrative, historiographical and literary sources. A common feature of their diversity was the concern for stable market and investment conditions.


«Civitas tunc quiescit et fulget cum pollentium numero decoratur». Le concessioni di cittadinanza in età viscontea tra pratiche e linguaggi politici
Giuliana Albini

An analysis of the granting of citizenship during the age of the Visconti has verified if and in what way, in the context of Milanese domination, the privilegium civilitatis was used as an instrument of continuity or rupture with the past and what type of language was adopted for it. The attempt was then made to ascertain to what degree the dominating classes of the city succeeded in reserving for themselves the right to grant new citizenship and what were the ways by which the ruling power took this over. Between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the duke progressively invaded this sphere: even though mediated through language that tends to call it a request for an act useful to the community, the duke’s intervention represents in any case an interference in matters that earlier were the prerogative of the communal institutions but that, over time, became important tools of government in the hands of the Visconti.


«Pro tranquillo et pacifico statu humanae reipublicae»: Guglielmo Centueri fra religione e politica nell’età di Gian Galeazzo Visconti
Barbara Baldi

The essay focuses on the treatise De iure monarchiae (1400 ca.), written by Guglielmo Centueri (OFM, 1340-1402 ca.). In particular, it tries to show the close relation between the religious and political experience of the author – theologian, important member of the Franciscan order and central figure of the politics of Gian Galeazzo Visconti – and the development of his reflection on the nature and character of papal monarchy, and, more directly, of the "state", within which special attention has been paid to the reconsideration of the connection between public good, private good and the "state".


«Common weal» and «commonwealth»: England’s Monarchical Republic in the Making, c. 1450-c. 1530
John Watts

This paper considers the effects of the reception of classical language and literature in late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century England, focusing on the theme of republicanism. It argues that Roman republican discourses played a significant part in the legitimation and development of more centralised, conciliar and legalistic forms of royal power in the course and aftermath of the Wars of the Roses.


Histoire du lexique politique français: émergence des corpus aristotélicien et augustinien à la fin du moyen âge
Olivier Bertrand

A part of the French vocabulary of political science was born during the reign of Charles V (1364-1380), thanks to the major translation projects of the philosophical and religious works ordered by the king of France. Translated into French for the first time, too, were Aristotle’s Politics and Ethics as well as The City of God by Saint Augustine. This essay analyzes especially the emergence of a specific lexicon for politics through the work of the translators Nicole Oresme and Raoul de Presles.


La poésie, un mode de communication politique durant la guerre des Deux Roses
Aude Mairey

Occasional poems written in England during the Wars of the Roses, in the second half of the fifteenth-century, have never been properly studied, mainly because of their limited aesthetic value. However, they are invaluable for the historian who wishes to study political communication of the late Middle Ages. Not a simplistic form of propaganda, they are part of a textual nebula – which includes other texts such as manifestos, oriented chronicles, genealogical and heraldic literature, and prose treatises – and feed the contemporary debates in a society whose members are more and more sensitive to political thinking.


La musica del dictamen. A proposito della percezione dell’ars dictaminis come tecnica musicale nell’Italia del Duecento (c. 1220-c. 1330)
Benoît Grévin

The history of the relationships between rhetoric and music remains in part still to be written for the late Middle Ages. If music historians have investigated the autonomization of a musical theory starting from linguistic bases, the study of the Ars dictaminis demonstrates that in the thirteenth century, the thought, use, and ideology of dictamen were strongly conditioned by a perception of rhetoric as a musical art. The study of the theoretical explanations and of notarial practice suggests two possible approaches: the thought and practice of rhythmic ornamentation; the representation of dictamen as the music of notarial self-presentation.


Le théâtre, entre communication politique et action politique (France, XIIIe-XVIe s.)
Marie Bouhaïk-Gironès

The theatrical forms and practices of the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries were as numerous as they were varied. They served to publicize trials, to spread news, as privileged venues for public controversies and as instruments of political and religious propaganda. The surviving theatrical texts do not represent a current "reality" nor are they the reflection of a political reality in a dramatic "fiction"; they are evidence of a political action that was but one link in a chain of actions. This article proposes to resituate the theatrical event within a continuum of social practices and in the chain of political actions in which it occurred, in other words, in its "broad context". It seeks to understand what took place during the theatrical performance, paying particular attention to the fact that this performance brought together an audience, and, especially, to grasp what went on both before and after the performance. The analysis thus extends beyond the "theatrical performance", which is too limited to permit a study of theatrical practices, and includes what went on between performances.


Le lamento d’opéra: un langage politique dans l’Italie du XVIIe siècle
Florence Alazard

Lament in seventeenth-century Italian opera has often been studied either as the scene of the explosion of emotions (sadness, melancholy, disappointment, anger), or as a gendered genre that comments on patriarchal society. In this essay, lament is considered as an implicit political discourse: through examples selected from the origins of the lament (l’Arianna of Monteverdi) and from its developments (Venetian opera of the 1640s, influenced by the Accademia degli Incogniti), the purpose of this paper is to prove 1) how emotions, in Italian opera, are linked to political concepts; 2) why lament, even if apparently unpolitical, takes charge of a political discourse which implies a consideration of Power and Government; 3) how, shaping a real "politics of lament", the Italians of the seventeenth-century (especially the academicians) were reshaping the ways of conceiving political efficiency.


Lupi e agnelli nel discorso politico dell’Italia comunale
Fabrizio Ricciardelli

The political struggles in Florence and other communes during Dante’s life (1265-1321) between magnates and popolani were so vicious and unrelenting that the losers were executed or physically excluded from the city, their goods and indeed their very lives taken from them. In this tense atmosphere a metaphor, when used repeatedly and publicly, can be a powerful political weapon. Communal governments in the late Duecento and early Trecento used the image of wolves terrorizing innocent, weak lambs to stigmatize those who were seen to wield too much power and thus were a threat to the state as bestial, ravenous creatures. The metaphor is in some ways problematic – it offers no hope of conciliation between the differing parties, as only in paradise can wolves coexist peacefully with lambs. Also unlike the image of a city as a fierce and proud lion, the image of the people as lambs could suggest to other states that the city is weak, an easy victim for a foreign wolf. Nevertheless, this image must have been considered singularly effective, as it appears repeatedly in legal documents, on processional standards, in decorations of government buildings and poetry in communal city states.


L’angoscia delle repubbliche. Il
Andrea Zorzi

The essay makes clear the emergence of a widespread emotion – "timor," the anguished feeling of a profound and frightening change in the times – in some Tuscan cities in the second half of the 1330s. An original interpretation is offered of three well-known "monuments" – the Florentine chronicle by Giovanni Villani, the frescoes by Buonamico Buffalmacco in the monumental cemetery in Pisa, and those by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena – which, in the peculiarity of their respective cultural contexts, reveal the shared sense of turmoil that rocked the urban societies of those years. The natural catastrophes, economic crisis, constant state of war, fleeting nature of worldly power, and rise of "tyrannical regimes" were suddenly perceived by contemporaries as a sharp break compared with earlier generations. The "sweet life" depicted by Lorenzetti in the well-governed city, the well-being and power celebrated by Giovanni Villani, and the courtly amusements illustrated by Buffalmacco reflect a common language of anxiety, a sensation of unease and gloom in the face of dangers felt as real or potential.


Discours princier de l’émotion dans les Pays-Bas bourguignons à la fin du Moyen Âge
Laurent Smagghe

The medieval ruler, whose body and behavior are carefully examined and commented, must obey the injunctions of an ideal habitus in which emotions have a substantial role to play and stand for a rulership practice (G. Althoff). The "good" prince embodies specific feelings and expressiveness which support the symbolic political communication. "Just Anger" and Love are particularly frequent in the contemporary sources, as they are the foundation of the relationship between the ruler and his people and justify the exercise of justice and revenge. More than a sign of sadness, tears may be activated in a pragmatic design. Weeping may appear as a relevant via media between transgressive anger and demonstrative pain. Thus, the prince is allowed to show emotion, but in a moderate and temporary way, to federate an "emotional community" around him.


Argument and Emotion in Italian Diplomacy in the Early Fifteenth Century: the Case of Rinaldo degli Albizzi (Florence, 1399-1430)
Isabella Lazzarini

An "emotional turn" is taking place in medieval studies on politics. However, diplomatic practice has been investigated very little to date from this point of view, even though it represents a very promising field, thanks to the liveliness and abundance of primary sources. Dealing with the extraordinary documentary ensemble represented by Rinaldo degli Albizzi’s Commissioni, this paper focuses on the political languages and the linguistic resources used in framing diplomatic strategies and political choices in early fifteenth century Florence, charting its way through very different fields – diplomacy, the social history of cultural change, and emotions.


Il quadrato di Aristotele. La moneta nell’edificazione della sovranità e della res publica (XIII-XIV s.)
Paolo Evangelisti

Coinage, understood not as money but as numisma, lends itself to being a conceptual object for defining sovereignty: its separability from the person of the princeps, and the limits within which it can be exercised, also in relation to the debate on changes in the value of the currency. Coinage takes upon itself the function-measure of the quality of the relation between the ruler and the community that uses and possesses the minted coins. If the coin represents the sovereign, it is also a representative institution of the political community and the market that utilizes it and, in some texts, it itself possesses a sort of autonomy, a sovereignty of its own, in competition with or overlapping that of the princeps. Also by this means, coinage becomes a tool with which to dematerialize the personal tie between dominus and subject.


Consuetudine, contratto, lucro individuale, uso domestico. Una riflessione sugli ideali economici a confronto nelle vertenze per le risorse del territorio alpino alla fine del medioevo.
Massimo Della Misericordia

The conflict between the signori and the community for control of the territory of the Lombard Alps in the late Middle Ages was the occasion also for the expression of different economic values. The communities intended to submit all the farming-livestock, commercial, and artisan activities strictly to custom and statutory rules, with the aim of safeguarding first and foremost the needs of families and of the poor. They thus had to challenge resolutely the economic individualism of the most unscrupulous, profit-seeking signori who saw the land, pastures and woods as resources to be exploited arbitrarily. Backed up by the state authorities concerned above all with maintaining social peace, they succeeded finally in effectively affirming the principle that the community’s interest prevails over the interests of the individual.


Aequalitas, fidelitas, amicitia. Dibattiti sulla fiscalità nel dominio visconteo
Andrea Gamberini

Examined through the lens of its taxation system, the authoritarian nature is confirmed of the Visconti government, under which the subject territories were not allowed to question the ius fisci of the ruler. Only jurists and theologians – moreover, with the encouragement of the ruler himself – could deal with this topic. However, this does not mean that the subjects renounced making their voices heard; they simply expressed their opinion about aspects of the fiscal policy which did not openly call into question the rights of the Visconti ruler – aspects, note well, that were in any case crucial for the life of the people and encompassed spheres like the apportionment of the tax burden, the choice between direct and indirect taxation, the defense of privilege, and the immunity granted by the ruler or his ancestors. The essay proposes both to examine the ideals appealed to by the various players (concepts like aequalitas, fidelitas, amicitia, etc.) and to verify the authentically performative capacity of those dialectical exchanges.


«Bee war of gyle in borugh». Taxation and Political Discourse in Late Medieval English Towns
Christian D. Liddy

This paper uses the language of taxation to explore the contemporary norms and values of political society in late medieval English towns. On the one hand, notions of popular consent, representation, urgent necessity and the common good, drawing upon the political discourse of state taxation at the national level, were key strands of public debate on taxation in urban communities. On the other hand, there was a distinctively urban fiscal discourse based upon the concept of citizenship. According to the renowned Marxist historian Rodney Hilton, the tax collected in towns by urban oligarchs was the equivalent of the feudal rent owed by the peasantry to rural landlords. Just as there was resistance in the countryside to the payment of rent, so tax revolts were a feature of English towns. However, the values of citizenship were a reflection of a particular urban mode of living and reveal a different pattern of politics in which the payment of tax was not simply a burden but a duty and a right.

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