Habilitation project of Dr. Hendrik Hess

Masculinity(ies) in the Late Middle Ages - Constructions of the manliness of the Roman-German ruler in the 14th century

The habilitation project deals with the performance of masculinity of the Roman-German rulers from 1273 to 1400. The period under investigation, which begins after the Interregnum, is on the one hand a formative phase for kingship and emperorship and on the other hand, due to the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century among other things, also for society as a whole. The precise description and analysis of the construction of masculinity(ies) will enable a deeper understanding of the position of the ruler in the late medieval (gender) order. As proof of his idoneity, the ruler has to  constitute his manhood continuously through social action (Simmel). This practice is characterized by ambivalences and precariousness, not only in terms of concepts such as of the king's natural and political body (Kantorowicz), but also in terms of the realization of conflicting ideals and virtues (virility/austereness, austerity, strength/clemency, etc.).

The (institutionalized) power relations and (institutionalized) forms of legitimation of a medieval ruler form the context of investigation inevitably. Due to his exposed social position, he stands in different asymmetrical relations. With his manliness, an aspect of the ruler's persona is singled out that is an essential part of his 'public' (ritual) staging. The ruler's public performance serves to represent stratification and idoneity. However, this constellation of dependency is reciprocal to a greater degree than one might assume initially. The ruler is dependent on the (affirmative) gaze of his subjects - the staging must succeed, and here the audience ultimately takes on the role of the evaluator. Criticism, subversion, and insurrection, moreover, can be explicated (and equally staged) effectively, for instance, by questioning the ruler's manliness or accusing him of a lack of masculine virtues.

The idealizing (or critical) gaze on the ruler is complemented by his view of himself, as far as it can be deduced from the sources. However, the proximity to the ruler and their respective context of origin must of course also be taken into account when analyzing contemporary narrative sources or illustrations. It can be assumed that the dominant discourse on the ruler's masculinity in 'factual' texts (historiography, official documents, etc.) was determined by various dispositifs that also influenced each other. Among others, genre traditions and conventions, 'theoretical' influences (scholasticism, Aristotles, the Bible, Augustine, Isidore of Seville, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, etc.), princely mirrors, and 'fictional' designs (of vernacular literature) have to be considered.

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