Wednesday, September 26, 2012

RIP Maurice Keen

I was a bit sad to find out this week that Maurice Keen had recently died. Anyone studying the broad topics of knighthood, nobility, and warfare in the later Middle Ages will no doubt be familiar with his large and influential body of work. His 1984 book Chivalry remains a seminal text on, well, chivalry, and he was one of the first historians to consider chivalric ideals and practices as core elements in later medieval political culture, rather than seeing chivalry as a rather romantic and frivolous adjunct to the real business of government, war, and diplomacy.

As you might expect of a work first published in 1984, there are certainly things he didn’t cover. Given my research interests, one lacuna in Keen's work was the omission of any analysis of gender and the dynamics involved in the construction of noble masculinity and the idealised male body of the knight. Nevertheless, a dog-eared and well-marked-up copy of the 2005 edition of this classic text remains close at hand on my bookshelf and I still find myself referring to it regularly.

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