Cultural transfers in Norman Medieval Worlds (8-12th Cent.): Objects, actors and mediators.
5-7 October 2017, Caen, Amphithéâtre du Musée des Beaux-Arts
(dir. P. Bauduin et L. Bourgeois)
This conference, which is being organised as part of the programme “Cultural transfers and social links in the Norman medieval world (8th-12th c.)”, will consider the objects, agents and conveyors of cultural transfers.
Numerous objects can be subject to cultural transfer. Due to an historiographical tradition that focused primarily on intellectual exchanges, certain issues have been closely studied, such as translations, the circulation of manuscripts and the diffusion of ideas, knowledge, themes, literary genres and artistic influences. Other elements, such as language, religion and law have also been the subject of scholarly attention, since these allow for the various strategies put in play by the agents involved in cultural transfers to be gauged, and are thought to be important factors behind either resistance or adaptation.
These factors are particularly important with regards to the Norman worlds in contact with the Christianity (or rather, “Christianities”) of the Scandinavian world, as well as in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, which experienced linguistic changes on a significant scale during this period (“Scandinavisation” ; “Latinisation” ; the spread of French ; the impact on and continued use of languages spoken in the British Isles before the Norman Conquest and in the Greek- and Arab-speaking parts of Norman Italy), and have been the subject of intense debate in relation to the establishment of legal systems. Other less-studied areas of cultural transfer will also be open to examination.
This conference will also reflect on the organisation of our current understanding by examining the relevance of analytical frameworks, such as those devised by P. Burke, who distinguishes between “artefacts” (including architecture and images), “texts” and “practices”, or their variability, their mutability and their mobility.
To understand the processes at work in cultural transfers, it is also important to examine the role played by various agents, since an analysis opens the way towards a sociology of transfers and their impact on either small or larger communities. Certain agents played a specific role in cultural transfers, either as a result of their status or function (ambassadors, missionaries, merchants, interpreters, translators, certain types or groups of artisans, etc.). And yet beyond these social or functional groupings, it is important to reflect on the ability of an agent to initiate or promote cultural transfers, as well as on the extent of their role and the factors that prompted them to act. For the period in question, status and role are frequently superimposed on one another: the role of the elites is better understood, since their lifestyle and mobility predisposed them to cultural transfers. The role of women is also starting to be better explored, and one of the conference’s objectives will be to examine the role played by other agents, such as artisans, and to take into consideration the recent re-examination of certain categories. Furthermore, the conference will also provide an opportunity for the study of the networks and ideas of community that could encourage or discourage cultural transfers, as well as the extent to which individuals participated in changes through their personal experiences.