Letter-writing and literary culture in Merovingian Gaul

Williard, Hope Deejune (2014) Letter-writing and literary culture in Merovingian Gaul. European Review of History : Revue européenne d'histoire, 21 (5). pp. 691-710. ISSN 1350-7486

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Abstract

This essay discusses Gregory of Tours’ claim that literary culture was in decline in light of the considerable quantity of poetry and letters composed by Merovingian authors. Scholars have come to appreciate the importance of letter-writing for historical inquiry, yet the contrast between Gregory’s assessment and aristocratic literary activity remains under-explored. This essay discusses fifth-century precedents and examines the continuity and discontinuity that occurred in the literary transition from late Antique to early-medieval Gaul. It examines the place of literary culture within Merovingian elite friendship networks, focusing on the interconnected writings of three Merovingian authors. Venantius Fortunatus was an Italian-born poet who spent most of his career writing for Merovingian elites. The royal officials Dynamius and Gogo composed letters found in a compilation of sixth-century letters called the Epistolae Austrasicae. Using the letters and poetry of these three writers, this essay argues that literary skill facilitated the creation and maintenance of connections across distance and was a necessary part of elite identity. It shows that Gregory of Tours’ dramatic rhetorical claim did not reflect the true state of literature in Gaul.

Keywords:literary culture, friendship, Merovingian Gaul, Venantius Fortunatus, JCNotOpen
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V130 Medieval History
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
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ID Code:24656
Deposited On:12 Oct 2016 15:28

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