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The Medieval Gift and the Classical Tradition
Ideals and the Performance of Generosity in Medieval England, 1100–1300


Part of Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series

  • Date Published: August 2019
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108424028

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About the Authors
  • This interdisciplinary study explores how classical ideals of generosity influenced the writing and practice of gift giving in medieval Europe. In assuming that medieval gift giving was shaped by oral 'folk models', historians have traditionally followed in the footsteps of social anthropologists and sociologists such as Marcel Mauss and Pierre Bourdieu. This first in-depth investigation into the influence of the classical ideals of generosity and gift giving in medieval Europe reveals to the contrary how historians have underestimated the impact of classical literature and philosophy on medieval culture and ritual. Focusing on the idea of the gift expounded in the classical texts read most widely in the Middle Ages, including Seneca the Younger's De beneficiis and Cicero's De officiis, Lars Kjær investigates how these ideas were received, adapted and utilised by medieval writers across a range of genres, and how they influenced the practice of generosity.

    • The interdisciplinary approach enables a new understanding of the role of generosity in medieval culture and political life
    • Explores the connections between ritualised communication in medieval Europe and that culture's intellectual traditions
    • Provides a strong foundation for comparing the culture of gift giving in medieval Europe with those studied by social anthropologists in other parts of the world
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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108424028
    • length: 234 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.47kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. The gift in classical literature
    3. De Beneficiis in medieval contexts
    4. Writing generosity
    5. Sanctifying generosity
    6. Romancing generosity
    7. Performing generosity

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    The Medieval Gift and the Classical Tradition

    Lars Kjær

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  • Author

    Lars Kjær, New College of the Humanities
    Lars Kjær is Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the New College of the Humanities. His previous publications include, as co-editor, a special volume of the Journal of Medieval History entitled 'Feasts and Gifts of Food in Medieval Europe: Ritualised Constructions of Hierarchy, Identity and Community' (2011).

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