Everyday creative writing in a late medieval household

When and Where

Friday, December 02, 2022 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Room 400
Alumni Hall


Everyone is invited to a lecture by Daniel Wakelin (Oxford), our joint CMS/PIMS Bennett Distinguished Visiting Scholar this fall term!


In the late Middle Ages, vernacular literature and philosophy often emerged from the patronage of secular households. I’ll begin by introducing some such works from the household of one Sir John Fastolf (1380-1459) and his long-suffering servants. But Fastolf’s household also produced a mass of paperwork—inventories, accounts, letters, petitions, legal ephemera—which I’ll also introduce. These documents seem to have forms and functions unlike literature and philosophy. They are most often looked at by different disciplines such as social or legal history; or literary history looks through them in order to contextualize famous works. But recent studies of the ‘poetics of practicality’ (in Lisa H. Cooper’s term) and ‘household knowledges’ (in Glenn Burger and Rory Critten’s) suggest that we look afresh at practical documents for literary properties. That closer look raises questions what creative writing was in the late medieval household, and about which different critical criteria might help us to appreciate it.