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Writing and Imagining the Crusade in Fifteenth-Century Burgundy: The Case of the Expedition Narrative in Jean de Wavrin's Anciennes Chroniques d'Angleterre Open Access


Other title
Burgundy, Wavrin, chivalry, crusade, historiography
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Desjardins, Robert Byron Joseph
Supervisor and department
Gow, Andrew C. (History & Classics)
Examining committee member and department
Brown, Sylvia (English & Film Studies)
Sweeney, Dennis (History & Classics)
Blockmans, Wim (History, University of Leiden)
Kitchen, John K. (History & Classics)
Hijmans, Steven (History & Classics)
Department of History and Classics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Scholars have long been attentive to the cultural legacy of Valois Burgundy – a site of remarkable artistic and literary productivity in the mostly desolate cultural landscape of fifteenth-century France. It is only recently, however, that critics have begun to interrogate Burgundian courtly literature with an eye to its narrative complexity and rhetorical and discursive “density,” and to the political and cultural concerns encoded within it. This study emulates and supports these efforts by undertaking a close reading of a remarkable Burgundian chronicle – one which depicts and defends a rare experiment in one of the most ideologically resonant enterprises of the day. The text, contained in Jean de Wavrin’s vast historical compilation, the Anciennes Chroniques d’Angleterre, describes a crusading expedition to Constantinople, the Black Sea, and various points on the Danube in 1444-46. Led by Jean’s nephew Waleran, the seigneur de Wavrin, the expedition was largely a failure. The author(s) of the chronicle therefore had a great deal to answer for; yet as the contours of their text reveal, their interests extended well beyond chivalric apologetics. This study analyzes the fascinating narrative tensions which unsettle the expedition narrative, and which offer a window into its varied (and often contending) rhetorical objectives. It considers, for instance, the tense interplay between two treatments of Waleran’s chivalry: one of which relies on epic and romance themes to depict him as a heroic warrior, and one which reveals his deliberate (and strategic) manipulations of those codes to preserve and burnish his reputation. It also explores the ways in which “epic” references to earlier crusades and anti-Islamic conflicts, invoked in a manner that tends to ennoble Waleran’s expedition, are truncated and subverted by strategic concerns over the problems of chivalric temerity and the power and sophistication of Ottoman forces. Together, the study concludes, these findings speak to the discursive complexity of the Burgundian court: a place where courtier-knights “fashioned” themselves strategically, using the very codes which some scholars have associated with “premodern”/medieval corporatism, and where warriors carefully negotiated the discursive margins of the courtly “cult of prowess” in order to articulate pragmatic advice based on lived experience.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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