Courtly Pastimes

Gloria Allaire (Editor), Julie Human (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


The modern concept of passing leisure hours pleasantly would, in the Middle Ages, have fallen under the rubric of Sloth, a deadly sin. Yet aristocrats of past centuries were not always absorbed in affairs of state or warfare. What did they do in moments of peace, "downtime" as we might call it today? In this collection of essays, scholars from various disciplines investigate courtly modes of entertainment ranging from the vigorous to the intellectual: hunting, jousting, horse racing; physical and verbal games; reading, writing, and book ownership. Favorite pastimes spanned differences of gender and age, and crossed geographical and cultural boundaries. Literary and historical examples come from England, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

Courtly Pastimes analyzes the underlying rationales for such activities: to display power and prestige, to acquire cultural capital, to instill a sense of community, or to build diplomatic alliances. Performativity − so crucial in social rituals − could become transgressive if taken to extremes. Certain chapters explore the spaces of courtliness: literal or imaginary; man-made, natural, or a hybrid of both. Other chapters concern materiality and visual elements associated with courtly pastimes: from humble children’s toys and playthings to elite tournament attire, castle murals, and manuscript illuminations.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages272
StateAccepted/In press - Nov 25 2022

Publication series

NameRoutledge Medieval Casebooks

Bibliographical note

Gloria Allaire is Associate Professor of Italian at the University of Kentucky. Her primary research interest has been Italian chivalric literature of the late Middle Ages. She has presented over fifty conference papers and published forty-five articles or book chapters. Her seven books include Andrea da Barberino and the Language of Chivalry (University Press of Florida, 1997); two Italian prose Tristan editions with facing-page English translations (D. S. Brewer, 2002 and 2015); The Arthur of the Italians [. . .], co-edited with F. Regina Psaki (University of Wales Press, 2014); and an essay collection, The Italian Novella (Routledge, 2003).

Julie Human is Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Kentucky where she directs the French language program and teaches courses ranging from accelerated beginning French to graduate seminars on medieval literature. Her research focuses on the intersections of pedagogy and gender in medieval French literature, particularly Arthurian romance. She has recently published on teaching the lais of Marie de France through performance and is currently working on a project on specularity in medieval French romance.


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