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Etymologies and Genealogies

A Literary Anthropology of the French Middle Ages

"Mr. Bloch has attempted to establish what he calls a ’literary anthropology.’ The project is important and ambitious. It seems to me that Mr. Bloch has completely achieved this ambition." –Michel Foucault

"Bloch’s Study is a genuinely interdisciplinary one, bringing together elements of history, ethnology, philology, philosophy, economics and literature, with the undoubted ambition of generating a new synthesis which will enable us to read the Middle Ages in a different light.

Stated simply, and in terms which do justice neither to the density nor the subtlety of his argument, Bloch’s thesis is this: that medieval society perceived itself in terms of a vertical mode of descent from origins. This model is articulated etymologically in medieval theories of grammar and language, and is consequently reflected in historical and theological writings; it is also latent in the genealogical structure of the aristocratic family as it began to be organized in France in the twelfth century, and is made manifest in such systems of signs as heraldry and the adoption of patronymns. . . .

It is an ingenious and compelling synthesis which no medievalist, even on this side of the Atlantic, can afford to ignore." –Nicholas Mann, Times Literary Supplement

289 pages | 5 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1983

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Medieval Studies

Table of Contents


       Introduction: Toward a Literary Anthropology of the Middle Ages

1.    Early Medieval Grammar
       Genealogy and General Sign Theory
       Linguistics and History
       Strategies of Return

2.    Kinship
       The Biopolitics of Lineage
       The Aristocratic Practice of Signs
       Grammar and Lineage
       The Tree of Jesse

3.    Literature and Lineage
       The Epic
       The Poetics of Disruption
4.    Poetry, Philosophy, and Desire
       Rhetoric and Desire
       Philosophy and the Family
       Nominalist and Modal Grammar

5.    The Economics of Romance
       The Courtly Novel

6.    Grail Family and Round Table
       The Wasteland
       Grail Quest and the Quest for the Name of the Father
       Geneaology of the Book and the Book of Geneaology
       Round Table and the Politics of Intention

       Appendix A
       Appendix B

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