Publication – Claudia Wittig, « Learning to be Noble in the Middle Ages. Moral Education in North-Western Europe »

This book explores for the first time the moral education of the Western European nobility in the high Middle Ages. The medieval nobility created and utilized values and ideals such as chivalry and courtliness to legitimize their exalted position in society, and these values were largely the same across Europe. Noble codes of conduct communicated these ideals in everyday interactions and symbolic acts at court that formed the basis of European courtly society. This book asks how noble men and women were taught about morality and good conduct and how the values of their society were disseminated. While a major part of moral education took place in person, this period also produced a growing corpus of writing on the subject, in both Latin and the vernacular languages, addressing audiences that encompassed the lay elites from kings to the knightly class, men as well as women. Participation in this teaching became a distinguishing feature of the nobility, who actively promoted their moral superiority through their self-fashioning as they evolved into a social class. This book brings together analyses of several major European didactic texts and miscellanies, examining the way nobles learned about norms and values. Investigating the didactic writings of the Middle Ages helps us to better understand the role of moral education in the formation of class, gender, and social identities, and its long-term contribution to a shared European aristocratic culture.

Table des matières :


  • Nobility and Morality in the High Middle Ages
  • Socio-Cultural Shifts in the High Middle Ages
  • Learned Discourses of Virtues and Values in the West
  • Moral Discourse in the Vernacular Languages
  • Research into Medieval Aristocratic Ethics
  • The Contribution of this Book

Chapter 1. Teaching Morality

  • Teaching the Noble Child
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Didactic Communities
  • Conclusion

Chapter 2. Models of Authority

  • Teaching and Authority
  • Letters – Letter Books – Treatises
  • Dialogues and Monologues
  • Conclusion

Chapter 3. The Courtly Cosmos

  • The Court Criticized – The Court Idealized?
  • The Court as a Formative Environment
  • The Court as a Communicative System
  • Conclusion

Chapter 4. Communities of Values

  • Aims of Instruction
  • Ideals of Medieval Aristocrats
  • Nobility in the Order of the World
  • Conclusion

Chapter 5. Organizing Knowledge

  • The Primacy of Poetry and the Truth of Prose
  • Structuring Knowledge: From Florilegium to Encyclopaedia
  • The Codex Speaks
  • Conclusion




Informations pratiques :

Claudia Wittig, Learning to be Noble in the Middle Ages. Moral Education in North-Western Europe, Turnhout, Brepols, 2022 ; 1 vol., 295 p. (Disputatio, 33). ISBN : 978-2-503-59500-9. Prix : € 85,00.

Source : Brepols

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