"Þe herte þe fote þe eye to accorde:" Procedural Writing and Three Middle English Manuscripts of Martial Instruction
London's British Library contains three manuscripts that record instruction in the use of personal arms in late medieval Middle English and are the only examples of this genre in English before 1595. These texts are part of a larger corpus of medieval European fight-texts but have not received detailed study.The aim is to explain how and why these texts approach their subject of instruction as they do. These fight-texts have not been studied in relation to fight-instruction or other textual forms of procedural or performance knowledge. Explaining the factors that influenced the authorial process can give us a better understanding of late-medieval attitudes towards martial knowledge, technical and practical writing, and the process of adaptation from oral knowledge to text.The Middle English manuscripts are described and compared to the larger corpus of German, Italian and French manuscript instruction in personal arms. These texts are also compared to other types of procedural and declarative writing, the debates over the classification of knowledge, and oral and text-based instruction such as recipe literature and dance notation.Outside the general subject matter of the us of arms, the Middle English fight-texts have little in common with their continental counterparts. This is due to the particular circumstances that determined how authors in fifteenth-century England approached procedural knowledge. The Middle English texts bear a strong similarity to contemporary English texts of dance and recipe literature. Comparison shows that the German and Italian fight-texts were influenced by different genres. This shows that the Middle English authors chose to adapt their oral knowledge to text for different reasons and from different points of reference than others at the same time.
Martial Culture, Technical Writing, Swordsmanship, Fechtbucher, Fencing, English History
Master of Arts (M.A.)