Vernacular language use in England throughout the later Middle Ages was a complex negotiation between English and French; that is, between the languages of English and French and the political identities of two peoples engaged in a long war. Clifford Geertz's famous analysis of “blurred genres” is used to think through the fuzzy properties of this period's bilingualism and to argue that to understand the boundaries between English and French as blurred is revealing of the linguistic and social tensions that were the product of conflict between two closely intertwined cultures. This article is the first of a three-part contribution to the Common Knowledge symposium on “blur,” each part corresponding broadly to Geertz's trifold instances of blur as involving “face-to-face interaction” (“life as game”), “collective intensities” (“life as stage”), and “imaginative forms” (“life as text”). This first part takes as its main example a duel described by Jean Froissart in his Chroniques, in which a French knight is punished by his own king, Charles V, for fighting and injuring an English knight on the outskirts of Calais in 1383.
Research Article|April 01 2012