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The Late Twelfth-Century Knightly Ethic in North-Western Europe in Life and in Literature

The Late Twelfth-Century Knightly Ethic in North-Western Europe in Life and in Literature

By Ayşegül Keskin

Master’s Thesis, Bilkent University, 2008

Abstract: By the end of the twelfth-century, a new type of literature had come into being in North-western Europe, combining an older warrior ethic with the newly formed refined culture of the courts. This literature centred on a knightly ethic that was presumed to have been practiced by King Arthur and his knights sitting at the legendary Round table. In the various examples of this literature in different genres, this knightly ethic interacted with and attempted to influence the real knights of the twelfth century. Because these works embodied many fictional elements in their nature, they have generally been disregarded by historians as masking or distorting the everyday reality with an idealistic approach. This study aims to discuss how this interaction between this knightly ethic, promoted by the literature, and the knights of real life worked. By using evidence both from fictional and non-fictional works of the period, it tries to see the similarities between the fact and the fiction, and the sometimes common perceptions expressed by both fictional and factual narratives. This thesis reaches the conclusion that twelfth-century knights did come to regulate their behaviour within limits set by this knightly ethic and that, to an extent, they learned to do so from the literary works of the period. However, at the same time, to varying degrees, those fictional narratives were inspired and influenced by the actual social practices of the knights.

Click here to read this thesis from Bilkent University

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