Uses of the past at the courts of French and Bohemian Kings 1350-1400 (PhD. Thesis)

Concepts of the past are most important parts in the formation of individual and collective identity. Medieval authors deliberately used the historical narratives as a means of enhancing the cohesion of respective social groups, usually the ruling strata of society. The project focuses on re-interpretations and exploitations of the past in France and Bohemia during the 14th century, on the role of historical narratives in the self-representation of the ruling dynasties Luxembourg and Valois, and on the perception of their own role in the history. Main question of the project is the social and literary context of the shaping of an imagination of the past: detailed comparison between the Latin and vernacular historiographical production at the royal courts in France and Bohemia will also bring crucial observations as to the ways and means of cultural transfer between the respective centres of power.

Central European Mirrors of Princes Between Latin and the Vernaculars

The goal of the project is to analyze the transition of the traditional literary genre of speculum principum from Latin to vernacular discourse with an emphasis on the production written in Central Europe, especially in Bohemia during the second half of the 14th and in the 15th centuries. The corpus of texts relevant for the study includes works written in Bohemia, Austria and Germany as well as Latin and Vernacular works from France and England. The main attention is paid to the spread and reception of the thought of Aristotle in Central Europe (Engelbert of Admont, De regimine principum, ca. 1300; comments of Aristotle's Politica written at the University of Prague in the second half of the 14th century). The time horizon of the project is the reign of the three Luxembourg kings (Charles IV., Wenceslaus IV and Sigismund in 1346-1437). This epoch is marked by the rise of vernacular literacy which began in the enviroment of the royal court, the archbishop's see and the University of Prague and quickly spread further into religious institutions, towns and aristocratic courts. The fundamental change of perspective that occured during the transfer of concepts of ideal rulership from Latin culture into the vernaculars is the main topic of analysis.