Duby 1967 Diffussion of Cultural Patterns in Feudal Society.pdf

The Past and Present Society The Diffusion of Cultural Patterns in Feudal Society Author(s): Georges Duby Source: Past & Present, No. 39 (Apr., 1968), pp. 3-10 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 08/07/2014 13:05 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . . JSTOR is a not-for-
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  The ast and resent Society The Diffusion of Cultural Patterns in Feudal SocietyAuthor(s): Georges DubySource: Past & Present, No. 39 (Apr., 1968), pp. 3-10Published by: Oxford University Press  on behalf of The Past and Present Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 08/07/2014 13:05 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  . Oxford University Press  and The Past and Present Society  are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserveand extend access to Past &Present. This content downloaded from on Tue, 8 Jul 2014 13:05:36 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  THE DIFFUSION OF CULTURAL PATTERNS IN FEUDAL SOCIETY* I BEGIN WITH A VERY ORDINARY DEA, A SIMPLE STATEMENT OF A KNOWN fact. This is that he cultural atterns f the upper lasses n society tend to become popularized, o spread and to move down, tep by step, to the most deprived ocial groups. If we take the word culture n its narrowest ense, beginning, hat s, in the realm of literary r artistic reation, f religious nowledge, elief nd attitudes, it s very asy o discern his phenomenon f popularization. Hence, I shall confine myself o illustrating his theme with wo inked nd parallel xamples aken rom ourteenth-century urope. As is well known, n the fourteenth entury, t least n the towns, and due to the propaganda f the mendicant rders, Christianity began to be, what t had not been for some centuries, popular religion. Sermons n the popular ongue, heatrical epresentations of holy cenes, he inging f he audes, radually evealed o the aity some of he precepts f he gospels nd characteristics f Christ which had not hitherto eached hem. Nor was t simply question f the diffusion, utside he narrow onfines f the clerical rder, f certain texts nd mental mages. This period was one in which forms f piety which had previously een limited to a small number of churchmen nd to monks nd canons, were ntroduced o all strata of urban ociety: he practices f collective hant, olitary meditation and, at least for ome of the laity, he regular eading f Books of Hours. During the same period, aymen, n family groups and fraternities, ower and lower down the social scale, appropriated forms of artistic xpression ormerly nly found among a very restricted lite. In the early middle ages only kings had chapels, ornate ombs nd relics. By the end of the fourteenth entury, any bourgeois amilies ad private ltars, ept chaplains, ad tombs nd employed rtists o decorate ltar creens r sculpt funerary ffigies. The middling obility ad relics mounted n their ersonal ewellery. Woodcuts llowed he minor spects f he rt f he upper ristocracy * This paper was srcinally communicated at a conference n May 1966 at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, held to discuss the problem of Social Classes and Cultural Level . It was also included among the Papers presented to the Past and Present Conference on 'Literature and the Historian', Io July 1967 at University College, London . The paper has been translated by Professor R. H. Hilton, University f Birmingham. This content downloaded from on Tue, 8 Jul 2014 13:05:36 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  4 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 39 to be diffused mong the widest social strata. And there s the striking henomenon hereby he architectural esigns sed to frame these pious images made woodcuts, which were essentially opular objets 'art, nto something n the nature f private hapels for he poor. All this s obvious nough nd fairly asy o study,' nd there is no need to labour the point. I mention hese preliminary on- siderations nly n order o present hree ypes f problem. The first an be expressed s a simple uestion. Is the movement of popularization uite so straightforward Did not the descending movement f popularization ave a counterpart, reverse rend In other words, o what xtent, n the Middle Ages, did aristocratic culture using he word n ts narrowest ense) ccept values or forms arising rom he owest ocial trata Here t is much more difficult to see just what was happening. On the one hand, the actual mechanics f creative ultural ctivity re hard to discern n the medieval period. On the other, although historians an detect some aspects of aristocratic ulture, ince these are embodied n forms which have lasted until our own times, we will always be ignorant f almost he whole of popular culture, nd may not even be able to prove ts existence. Only three acts, s far s I can see, stand out clearly. (I) In the course of the development f medieval Christianity culture nd propaganda were one: to educate was to convert. The centres f cultural reation were, of course, ocated n the upper levels of the social tructure, mong he members f the ecclesiastical avant-garde. But since they were consciously working owards a popular audience, they readily accepted some of the diffuse tendencies, eneral deas and mental mages which were widely spread n lower ultural evels. The intention as to harness hese tendencies o that he propaganda, ouched n familiar erms, ould more easily reach the masses. In other words there was an acceptance f what we would call folk-lore and a folk-lore which, ut for his cceptance, ould be quite unknown o us. This phenomenon s observable n the Merovingian eriod as M. Le Goff has brilliantly hown),2 o less than n the thirteenth nd fourteenth centuries hen the Dominicans nd the Franciscans trove o make Christ living eality n the owns. (2) Aristocratic ulture lso accepted elements f folk-lore n a natural and long lasting fashion s a result of its own leaning 1 G. Duby, Fondements 'un nouvel umanisme Geneva, 1966). 2 J. le Goff, Culture clericale et traditions folkloriques dans le civilisation mnrovingienne , Annales, E.S.C., xxii (1967). This content downloaded from on Tue, 8 Jul 2014 13:05:36 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  THE DIFFUSION OF CULTURAL PATTERNS IN FEUDAL SOCIETY 5 towards populism . This leaning s clearly een, for example, n fifteenth-century rincely ircles, with heir uriosity bout hepherds and rustic ntertainments. Moreover, ome of the decorative motifs in their wellings nd some of the elements n courtly music, hough stemming ltimately rom ristocratic ircles, cclesiastical nd lay, were derived mmediately rom ower social groups among which they had been simplified and falsified) uring he long period of popularization. (3) This leads me to a third fact. In penetrating ownwards through uccessive ocial evels, he elements f aristocratic ulture underwent hanges which, generally peaking, s far as form nd modes of expression re concerned, re marked y a simplification and progressive chematization. As to content, he characteristic tendency as towards progressive isintegration f ogical tructure and a suffusion with emotionalism. These changes mark, for example, he religious rt and piety f the fourteenth entury, hen Christianity as being popularized. But at the same time there seems to have been a rebound, a corresponding hange in the elements f culture t the highest ocial evels. The Christianity f the topmost ierarchy f the Church nd of the princely ourts n the fourteenth entury as undoubtedly much enriched y a sensibility that was popular in srcin and that found expression s artistic creation nd devotional ttitudes enetrated more deeply nto the mass of the people. We have, therefore, o try o understand and this ould be a primary ubject f research) ow the popularization f aristocratic models - the essential, determining motive force n cultural istory in effect lso established two-way ommunication between he cultures f different ocial evels. But the ramifications f the problem ecome much more omplex as soon as one extends he nquiry nto culture n a broader ense. One sees immediately hat he movement f popularization perates over a much wider area, and affects ot only beliefs, knowledge, and religious ttitudes, ut also social consciousness s a whole, individual ehaviour nd ethical values, n brief he whole mode of life. Here also the phenomenon f popularization s seen n its twin aspects: the acceptance nd imitation y lower social groups of models nd attitudes ut forward y the 6lites; nd conversely, he adoption y the elites hemselves f some of the values of the ower social orders. I propose o show his by analysing he culture in the wider meaning f he word s used by modern thnologists) f he French ristocracy n the leventh nd twelfth enturies. Here was a social group which became increasingly oherent This content downloaded from on Tue, 8 Jul 2014 13:05:36 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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