Constanze Buyken (IFRA)

Aspects of gender in the rituals of exclusion, punishments and disciplinary measures in 15th century tournaments

In the 15th century, tournaments were a crucial, almost omnipresent element of the festive culture in European civilisations and, thus, an essential locus of sociability. They translated into magnificent festivities and offered a place for political and diplomatic encounters, social representation and communication. As such, tournaments were also a central occasion of public contact, interaction and communication between men and women. Therefore, as I argue in my research, they are a precious subject for gender history and the study of representation, definition and performance of masculinities and femininities, as well as gendered social ideals and norms. In my talk at the conference on “Games and Competitions in Medieval Societies”, I will follow this thinking and focus on the rituals of exclusion and punishment in a series of tournaments organised by the lower nobility in south-western German territories in the 15th century, in which I consider the interaction between men and women to be pivotal.

In a first step, I will examine the regulations of a particular tournament series, the so called “Vier Lande Turniere” which took place in the regions of Rhineland, Swabia, Franconia and Bavaria between 1479 and 1486. Rules and regulations were indeed a very important aspect in these events, just as is stated in Johan Huizinga’s canonical definition of games and play as, “a voluntary activity or occupation executed within certain fixed limits of time and place, according to rules freely accepted but absolutely binding”. The tournament regulations (Turnierordnungen) tell us about the rules, such as conditions to participate in the tournaments, the virtues and values that were to be respected, what one was allowed to wear, how the participants were to be selected, how the prizes were attributed, etc. I argue that these rules and regulations refer to behavioural norms, values and virtues that are not only determined by a socially defined code, but also a gendered one. In my talk, the tournament regulations will be analysed in the multiple dimensions of noble masculinity in the tournament, as well as in the context of the tournament as a public space of interaction between men and women.

In a second step, I will focus on the process of selection or exclusion of the participants as well as on the disciplinary rituals and punishments that were explicitly connected to the tournament regulations. The punishments could consist of beating the wrongdoer; condemning him to watch the tournament sitting on the barriers of the tournament grounds, beneath the public; in confiscating his horse and armour; and excluding him from all future tournaments, etc. This shows the educational and civilising function of these late medieval tournament series for the lower noble community. As I will demonstrate, it is just as necessary to look closer at the gendered dimension of the punishments as it is to consider the regulations, both regarding masculinity and the role women played in these processes and rituals. This is indeed crucial, as these rituals ensuring the civilising aspect of the tournaments were actively connected to the women present in the tournaments.


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