Forms Of Writing, Forms Of War: England, Scotland, France C. 1300-1450

Daniel John Davies, University of Pennsylvania


“Forms of Writing, Forms of War” charts a literary history of interlinked English, Scottish, and French conflict from the imperialist policies of Edward I in the late thirteenth century to the murky end of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). Drawing on manuscript studies, cultural history, and close readings of literary and non-literary texts, the project argues that medieval war was theorized by a broad range of writers, from poets like Geoffrey Chaucer reflecting on the terror of siege warfare to chroniclers such as Thomas Walsingham and Walter Bower hammering histories of violence into the shape of national history. Concerns around mediation–how to represent the events of war for audiences beyond the battlefield and how to forge political communities through such acts of representation–unite these projects. But mediation was more than a question of aesthetic strategy. It first enters the English language as a term of diplomacy in the late-fourteenth century, within the context of Anglo-Scottish conflict. I argue that the nascent art of international relations, particularly the triangulated relations among England, Scotland, and France, creates a heightened awareness of the connections between literary and political mediation central to the distinct textures of medieval wartime. The project’s multilateral structure is both formal (in its exploration of literary, historical, and practical texts) and geographical (in its efforts to bring Anglo-Scottish and Anglo-French studies together). Through this multilateral framework, it seeks to rethink inherited nationalist and monolingual historical scripts, revising a scholarly history that isolates the literature of war into national and linguistic siloes. Ultimately, “Forms of Writing, Forms of War” argues that historians and literary authors theorized the territorial conflicts endemic to medieval Europe as a political worldview centered on war. Unlike today, when war is seen as a temporary rupture of the state of peace, intellectuals in the Middle Ages saw war as the default state of society and peace a mere cessation of battles soon to recommence.