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date: 30 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries witnessed the proliferation of conduct books, an indication of the growing instability of class boundaries as well as concern about maintaining or acquiring the manners and customs of “courtesy.” Such books, especially those dealing with table manners and social decorum, contain principles that are akin to those of modern social governance. Jonathan Nicholls argued that conduct texts must be read as a way to better understand medieval literature. A radically different approach has been proposed by Kathleen Ashley and Robert L. A. Clarke in their edited collection of essays, Medieval Conduct. Ashley and Clarke put equal emphasis on “texts, theories, and practices,” rather than using conduct and courtesy texts to illuminate “literature.” This article examines the representation of nurture and conduct in the medieval period and the reality of medieval behavior, thought, and feeling about the proper conduct of the self. It discusses recent theories of ritual practice and social behavior, particularly those outlined by Pierre Bourdieu, Michel de Certeau, Norbert Elias, and Michel Foucault.

Keywords: conduct, courtesy, Jonathan Nicholls, medieval literature, Kathleen Ashley, Robert L. A. Clarke, Medieval Conduct, nurture, medieval period, social behavior

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