The knight and Chivalry a critical review of Richa
rd BarberRichard Barber first published The Knight and Chivalry in 1970. At the time, not a whole lot had been written on the subject of chivalry. Thus, Barber can be viewed is sort of an original scholarly writer on this subject matter. His work is extensive. In this particular book he covers the following concepts: the transition of the Knight from mounted warrior, chivalry and literature, chivalry in the field, chivalry in religion, and finally, chivalry in the state. All five parts present pages of rich text. However, I will be dealing specifically on the concept of chivalry and literature. My reason is this: to the reading it was done in MDVL 145, heroes and villains, I am more inclined to look at the authors own ideas in relation to other literature circa the 12th century, in a critical manner. Thus the purpose.
I already mentioned that the book carries a wide spectrum of ideas in continent. In dealing with the book as another piece of useful text, is important to look at the detail of the Barber puts into the subjects that he’s addressing. In this, the important aspects are covered. He doesn’t bore the reader with over detailing and repetition subject matter. However, at the same time the reader never feel like something was left out, or a confusion about the important links between literature and chivalry. The detail is lined with eloquence. One on the subject of chivalry, Barber wrote, “the ideals of chivalry appealed to the motions, and the forest best in a Gothic and romantic climate; neoclassicism appeals to reason and to the sense of order.”
In such a wide range of book, and make things difficult for the reader to distinguish such variations in concept, rained, and period of time. I think this is why Barber begins the book by setting a foundation no idea of what Knight and is, and what exactly represents. In doing so, of course, the author establishes a great deal of history post the era of chivalry in Knight said. So much insight is given in most all aspects of chivalry. What I find especially interesting is the detail painting of the tournament as a chivalric occasion. Though this book contains a rather large spectrum of conceptual range, the focus is kept on the ideal of chivalry.
While Barber covers content of the specifics, he also has involved other means of informing the reader in order to enforce the points that he makes. Maps including: the Eastern Mediterranean and period of the crusade, the military orders in Spain, Teutonic order in Persia and the Baltic, have all been added to keep the reader informed. Perhaps to accommodate my favorite style learning, glossy and colorful pictures of paintings and descriptions line parts of the text. This reinforces my point: detail, conceptual range, and content was not spared nor overstated in Barber’s work.
This book is heavily documented. It is almost to the point that I feel like Barber’s points are often not his own. However, he takes particular no in discussing the Chronicles of Jean Froissart. Also by doing so, said the tone of chivalric Chronicle. I will just say now, that I am rather disappointed with the authors choices of literature that is dealt with. Perhaps because of my skewed and limited view of the literature that is out there that deals with chivalry. It would be near miracle and Barber directly related Chevrolet to my familiar surroundings such as Yvain, Songs of Roland, and Beowulf. These pieces of literature seemed to be discussed to other parts of the book.
It is hard point out particular bias that the author may have. However, they are instances where bias can be noted. For example, Barber has a very critical view of the De Amore of Andreas Capellanus. The Barber claims that the real purpose of De Amore was to warn the young friend to whom the writing is addressed to about the temptations and dangers of flesh. Barber implies that the code of love that Capellanus suggests offers the difficulty in a possibility. Barber, then, seems to be more partial to Ovid’s Art of Love. In turn, claiming that his poetic genius had more than influence than the De Amore.
Barber quotes Edmond Foral’s Origins of Courtliness saying, “the Knight and love is a literary invention of the clerk.” Barber essentially relates all of his work, in dealing with chivalry, too broad and various aspects of other works. He says, knighthood began as a stranger to the world of courtesy; masculine, aggressive, it was a battle with rules and limits, but it’s ethos was that of do as you would be done by. It heroes and feats of arms were those of the Iliad as much as of the Chason de Roland. The distinctive touch of chivalry was missing; the play lacked heroine. When the Knight’s first lady appears in the literature of the mid 12th century, she is unlike anything before or since, unrival in her command over men’s hearts, a remote, almost divine being.
Barber closely relates Perceval or Le conte del Graal and Yvain. Taking into account that they are both tales of obscure adventures, I get the feeling that he prefers Perceval to Yvain. However, he is careful in discussing the themes that are closely related and gives a critical outlook on these pieces. All of the literature that he mentions is taken seriously. It all pertains to chivalry in respect to the topic of his writing.
Personally, I cannot say that Barber is wrong or right about the ideas that he covers. My opinion is limited to my knowledge of the subject. Barber has a bias opinion on how different pieces of literature would relate to chivalry. However, unlike mine, his opinion is based on years of intense study within the subject field. Therefore what the author perceives to be true, I ultimately perceive to be true as well.
I enjoy reading this book. Barber is an exceptional writer who keeps the reader informed and on top of the ideas that he’s trying to convey. I find the book is more informative and critical in a monographic sense. Even though much of the book was helpful and quite interesting, I feel that it lacks specific structure. Barber is obviously an extremely intelligent writer. However, he seems to jump around and include many various forms of literature, and so specific focus is lost. I also felt that he left out the ideals and legends of Camelot, even though he mentions the characters on great detail. I was also rather disappointed in the sad manner of which the ideals of chivalry are dismissed. Barber shows the path from chivalry to courtesy, making chivalry a relic of the past. In my personal opinion, I have always viewed chivalry as an embellishment of courtesy instead of its predecessor.
Barber takes chivalry to the next level. He makes mention of tremendous amounts of literature dealing with courtly origins, knighthood, tournaments, and even taking a scholarly outlook on the different critics of chivalry as well as advocates of reform.