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DFG Network LuPE – Literature and Practices of Existence

Noble Forms of Subjectification between the 13th and 16th Century


Jakob Püterich von Reichertshausen

The network aims to develop a new and interdisciplinary perspective on the interplay between literature and forms of subjectification in the Late Middle Ages. As a result, the network will analyse the role of literary interests in the formation of the identity of the nobility, and simultaneously examine intersections between literary texts and courtly practices (for example, tourneys where participants dressed as Arthurian knights). It seems to be a particular, yet widely unexplored, characteristic of the Late Middle Ages to incorporate literary culture into forms of self-stylisation: Jakob Püterich von Reichertshausen, for example, outlines a whole library catalogue in his so-called ‘Ehrenbrief’ of 1462, which he uses to demonstrate his literary knowledge. The fact that the letter itself is written in a traditional, highly stylised ‘Titurel’-stanza further sheds light on the merging of literary reception, self-stylisation, and literary production.
These interfaces can be understood not only as a German, but also as a pan-European, phenomenon. Hence, the network will bring together specialists from different fields of medieval studies: German studies, Romance studies, Scandinavian studies, and medieval history. The members of the network aim to write a monograph together, which will focus on different forms of subject formation through literary stylization in late medieval Europe. The comparison of different fields of language and culture in particular will result in new approaches being achieved in relation to the process of subjectification within the nobility of the Late Middle Ages. At the same time, the members of the network will develop a theoretical framework that will explore the possibilities and boundaries of this interdisciplinary research field, thereby opening up new opportunities for future research. This theoretical framework will combine observations from the philosopher Michel Foucault with recent sociological attempts to define a ‘theory of practice’ (Reckwitz). In his later works, Foucault developed a concept of ‘technologies of the self’, which describes practices through which people modify and stylize their own ‘self’. In connection with recent research approaches to social models of action and behaviour, practices of forming one’s own existence in the Late Middle Ages and literary self-stylisation can thus be described in a new and interdisciplinary methodology.