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The Norman Conquest of the Classical Past: William of Poitiers, Language and History

Winkler, EA; (2016) The Norman Conquest of the Classical Past: William of Poitiers, Language and History. Journal of Medieval History , 42 (4) pp. 456-478. 10.1080/03044181.2016.1179215. Green open access

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Abstract

William of Poitiers' Gesta Guillelmi, written shortly after the Norman Conquest of England, remains surprisingly neglected, especially by historians. He is generally regarded primarily as a classical stylist who employed classical references to decorate his panegyric of William of Normandy. Poitiers' use of classical allusion was, however, far from superficial. In arguing for William’s legitimacy as king of England, Poitiers addresses a wider audience than is generally acknowledged, and appeals directly to the fears, expectations and values of his day. The article examines his three most sustained allusions to classical heroes of naval enterprises and conquest – Caesar, Aeneas and Theseus – as key components of the memory of the Norman Conquest, demonstrating that each allusion makes a specific moral and political point. Poitiers is a case study for medieval authorial ingenuity in applying classicism to the problems of the present.

Type: Article
Title: The Norman Conquest of the Classical Past: William of Poitiers, Language and History
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/03044181.2016.1179215
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03044181.2016.1179215
Language: English
Additional information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the Journal of Medieval History on 12 May 2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/03044181.2016.1179215.
Keywords: Historiography, Norman Conquest, classical allusion, morality, politics, William of Normandy
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1495348
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