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Abstract

The introduction sets the stage for the study by briefly describing the transcultural phenomenon of pre-modern advice literature for rulers, commonly referred to as Mirrors for Princes, and the way the historiographical tradition has rendered the ‘European’ and the ‘Middle Eastern’ Mirror traditions incommensurable. This is followed by the introduction of the paradigm of Late Antiquity as a Denkraum that, through its cultural heritage, had a lasting impact on the societies of the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia, in which the literature under consideration was produced. Next, the discussion turns to the concept of transculturalism, which, as a method, has the ability to upset the culture (or nation) based grid of historiography that has led to the division of the Mirror tradition into distinct and incommensurable units. Finally, the research procedure of the present study is laid out.

In: Reflecting Mirrors, East and West: Transcultural Comparisons of Advice Literature for Rulers (8th - 13th century)

Abstract

Chapter 1, The traditions, begins with a summary of the histories and pre-histories of the pre-modern Mirror literature in Europe and the Middle East, as presented by the historiographic tradition. After laying out the current typologies and periodizations of Mirrors from the geographical area of the Late Antique oecumene, a tentative analysis of potential reasons for the historiographical separation of Mirrors is offered. This is followed by a discussion of the concept of genre and its problematic application to the transcultural phenomenon of Mirror literature. This leads to the introduction of an alternative approach to ‘genre’, followed by the proposal of a heuristic definition of the Mirror genre and a discussion of its impact on our understandings of the primary texts. Chapter 1 concludes with a survey of previous attempts of comparative studies of Mirrors and a detailed explanation of the methodology of the present study.

In: Reflecting Mirrors, East and West: Transcultural Comparisons of Advice Literature for Rulers (8th - 13th century)

Abstract

Chapter 2, The texts, introduces the study’s four main primary sources in terms of their textual tradition, form, structure, content and the socio-politico-religious context of their composition. In spite of the paucity of historical evidence, an additional focus is laid on the reception of the Mirrors. The texts’ thorough contextualisation produces new insights on the various situations of crisis and reorientation that make these texts comparable. The analysis of the works’ potential functions and the historical context of their production sheds light on the roles that Mirrors played at court and adds to our understandings of the complex relations between author and addressee, advisor and ruler, teacher and pupil. Finally, the contextualisation of the texts provides an impression of the ways they have been traditionally studied by scholars, that is, what role they have been credited with and what aspects have attracted particular scholarly attention.

In: Reflecting Mirrors, East and West: Transcultural Comparisons of Advice Literature for Rulers (8th - 13th century)

Abstract

Chapter 3, The advice, proposes an analysis of the virtues and roles (or duties) of rulers mentioned in Mirrors. The chapter begins with a comparative analysis of the virtue of justice. Other virtues, such as forgiveness, patience, and rational decision-making, are discussed en passent as the chapter turns to the question of the relationships between advice on personal virtues and the exercise of a public office. The analysis of regal duties, such as the military commander, head of state, judge, educator and religious leader, sheds light on the ruler’s position in the cosmos, his relationship towards the divine, the aim of rulership and the obstacles that rulers have to overcome. Against the backdrop of the historical contexts, this analysis of the texts’ contents reveals the various functions of Mirrors in moments of change or crisis and brings to light strands of perennial advice, recast into a variety of socio-politico-religious contexts.

In: Reflecting Mirrors, East and West: Transcultural Comparisons of Advice Literature for Rulers (8th - 13th century)

Abstract

Chapter 4, The advisors, deals with the authors’ discursive strategies by focusing on two key processes within Mirrors: the authors’ construction and presentation of advice and the negotiation of their relation with the addressed ruler. The analysis of the first process tells us more about the way authors of Mirrors characterize the origin, authority, field of application and function of their advice. It also provides us with insights on the authors’ usage of sources, by revealing the strategies and methods that they adopt in weaving supporting material, such as narratives, into their Mirrors. The analysis of the second process deals with negotiations of power in the process of the authors’ self-representation and self-positioning. The analysis looks at how authors of Mirrors evoke notions of immediacy, performativity and rituality in order to embed their works in established advisory models that rest on discourses of utility (and harmfulness), naturalness, genealogy and gender.

In: Reflecting Mirrors, East and West: Transcultural Comparisons of Advice Literature for Rulers (8th - 13th century)

Abstract

The conclusion brings together the numerous results of the Mirrors’ analysis to produce new understandings of the four texts per se and the Mirror genre as a whole. A holistic description of the transcultural Mirror genre is offered that highlights the various aspects of Mirrors that the analyses have identified. In addition, three alternative transcultural typologies of Mirrors are offered. The conclusion then goes on to revisit the image of the ‘mirror’ in order to highlight Mirrors’ role in the construction and subversion of the regal subject. The conclusion ends by restating the value of Mirrors as sources for the study of the Late Antique Denkraum, pre-modern enunciations of (sacralised) rulership, pedagogical theories and practices, and the development of the phenomenon of adab. Finally, the significance of the study’s findings are emphasized for the understanding, representation, study and teaching of cultural practices in a globalized world.

In: Reflecting Mirrors, East and West: Transcultural Comparisons of Advice Literature for Rulers (8th - 13th century)
In Reflecting Mirrors, East and West Enrico Boccaccini sheds new light on Mirrors for Princes, the pre-modern genre of advice literature for rulers. A popular genre in the societies that emerged from the Late Antique oecumene, Mirrors for Princes are considered here, for the first time, as a transcultural phenomenon that challenges the dichotomy of the Orient and the Occident. Traditionally, the historiographic tradition has viewed ‘European’ and ‘Middle Eastern’ Mirrors as distinct and incommensurable. Analyzing the contents and discourses in four Mirrors, ostensibly separated by space, time and language, Enrico Boccaccini convincingly draws out the surprising continuities between these texts, while also showing how they are embedded in their own historical, literary and political context.