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  • Monday, January 30, 2023 - 5:15pm to 6:30pm

Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion, sixth floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

In the sixteenth-century German-speaking lands, the knightly tournament developed into an activity for the impersonation of visible human difference. Long before it became common to enlist non-European people in court performances, European princes and nobles themselves impersonated foreign rulers through costuming, masking, and cosmetic transformation. Though eventually they would incorporate Atlantic materials and referents, these performances initially expressed longstanding Mediterranean and Central European perceptions of human alterity, in particular those of chivalry. Princes and nobles embodied their understanding of human difference through equestrian exercises such as the joust and tilt and their attendant masquerades, offering a “chivalric ethnography” that would prove influential. Though ephemeral, these festivities were often richly recorded: memorialized in writing, both manuscript and print, they were also illustrated both in painting and printed images, sometimes ornately. This paper considers the peculiarities and challenges of studying the bibliographic documentation of these festivals, focusing in particular on the use of scrolls to commemorate chivalric festivities.

Alexander Bevilacqua is assistant professor at Williams College, where he teaches early modern European history. He is the author of The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment (Harvard 2018), which won the Baxter Adams Prize of the American Historical Association. He also co-edited Thinking in the Past Tense: Eight Conversations (Chicago 2019) and has published articles in Journal of Modern HistoryJournal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, and Past and Present, among others. He is currently researching representations of human diversity at early modern court festivities.