All entries for Tuesday 09 January 2007

January 09, 2007

More of Kristeva on the Renaissance

Michel de Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne’s Universal Self
The beginning of this section reiterates that while on the one hand the Renaissance was characterised by individualism and nationalism, there was also an element of cosmopolitanism to its make up as well. Kristeva is adamant that Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) typifies this binding together of heterogeneous characteristics, for while Montaigne had influence in the Bordeaux Parliament, in the courts of Henry II and Francis II, he was also a friend to Henry of Navarre and managed to endure through events such as the Saint Bartholomew Day Massacre. (There is a great film about this chain of events called La Reine Margot). Kristeva sees ‘a new sort of man’ in Montaigne’s essays moving ‘within a universal gamut’ (119).

“Constant Cheerfulness”
Kristeva is amused by the ‘weak and puny’ nature of the self that Montaigne presents and she praises his ‘serene enjoyment’ of life (119). Kristev admits that Montaigne tends towards self-judgement, but she si clear that he also expresses ‘fondness for his weaknesses’ (119). What Montaigne presents then is, ‘a vision of self beyond good or evil’ (119). Kristeva is also impressed by Montaigne’s awareness that, ‘ it is on the other that the self relies for sustenance and trust’ and she presents a number of images of splitting from his Essays (120). Montaigne is ‘mindful of the particularity of each things’, while his notion of selfhood ‘carries out a real escalation of the notion of difference’ (120). Kristeva concludes: ‘An affirmation of concord banning oddness and marginality proves possible if, and only if, such an apology of universal difference is asserted’ (120).

Of Cannibals and Coaches
To begin, Kristeva sums up Montaigne’s creed: ‘What followed, probably in the most natural way, was respect for the seeming strangeness of other, at once included in the universal naturalness of this enlarged, diversified, and tolerant region of self’ (120). Yet Kristeva describes how on meeting Brazilian native in France, Montaigne was concerned than the human mind could not take in such a great universality. Montaigne idealises these natives as pure, good and happy (like Rousseau would later) and he declines the use of the word, ‘barbarian’, to describe them, even though some are cannibals. Montaigne, then, meets difference with pleasure and curiosity.

Kristeva describes Montaigne as sometimes being a dilettante, a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. Yet at other times he was ‘a dispenser of justice’ who ‘condemned the forced conversions of Portuguese Jews’ the prejudice against Native Americans and massacres in Peru and Mexico (120). Kristeva wonders, ‘would the puny self be the first antiracist?’ (121).

Here Kristeva shows her skepticism, as she ponders whether in accepting the difference of others, Montaigne is in fact simply levelling particularities and ‘swallowing everything surprising and unknowable’ (122). However, she is sure that , ‘a natural human universality is in the process of taking shape, which impugns supremacy without erasing distinctions’ (122).

A new cosmopolitanism is being born, no longer founded on the unity of creatures belonging to God, as Dante conceived, but in the universality of a self that is fragile, casual, and nevertheless virtuous and certain. Montaigne’s self, which never ceases to travel in the self is already an invitation to explore the world and others with the same uncompromising kindness (123)

Voyages, Cosmographies, Missions
It was in this period that people desired to read more about the world: about the Orient and the Americas. Even the War of Religions did not obstruct this desire. Kristeva mentions:
Les Voyages de Signuer de Villamont (1595),
Cosmographie et singularites de France antarctique (1557) by André Thevét,
Le Voyage au Bresil (1578) by Jean de Léry,
Lettres of Francis-Xavier,
• and the Histoire de la Nouvelle-France (1609) by Marc Lescarbot.
Such texts directed people towards ‘a new image of the world’ as they read about new societies supposedly characterized by atheism, the savage and nakedness (124). Nationalism found benefits in this new world view such as values of naturalness. Francois Charpentier’s 1664 report recommended that France spread its language and culture amongst these new barbarian peoples. This was the seeds of colonialism, yet the first explorers often visited far off lands in the hopes of effecting cultural expansion.

Guillaume Postel

A Cosmopolitan Gaul
Kristeva uses the example here of Guillaume Postel (1510-1581), whom she describes as ‘a polyglot with an international reputation’ and ‘a forerunner of comparative philology’ (125). He was also a ‘visionary missionary’ who endorsed Arabic and Muslim culture as superior to his own, yet was adamant that all religions should enter the orbit of Christianity. He was thrown out of the Jesuit movement, disliked the papacy and was not over-fond of Protestants either. He fell in and out of grace with the monarchy and spent the last 18 years of his life in jail. Kristeva views him as a cosmopolitan and explains that his radical view of religion was the cause of his being declared insane by the Inquisition. He was also a kind of feminist, influenced by the ideas of Dame Jehanne. Postel represents a paroxystic stage of cosmopolitanism.


Kristeva on ‘The Renaissance, ďso Shapeless and Diverse in CompositionĒ ’

Dante

Dante the Exile: From ‘Salty Taste’ to ‘Golden Mirror’

Kristeva begins this section: ‘At the threshold of the modern era there lived an exile, Dante (1265-1321)’ and for the rest of this chapter Dante is held up as an example of the exile during the Renaissance. Kristeva describes how Dante wrote The Divine Comedy in exile from Florence. This occurred because of the Guelph-Ghibelline war, in which the Guelphs were loyal to the Pope and the Ghibelline’s were sceptical about his ‘political primacy’ (105). In Dante’s infancy, the Guelphs prevailed, yet this gave rise to another division between the Whites who were devoted to Florence’s independence and the Blacks who desired to dismantle small Tuscan states. As an adult Dante favoured the Whites and he was able to contribute to political life after enrolling in ‘the professional corporation of arts’ (105). Consequently, Dante commenced on a mission to plead the Whites’ cause to Pope Boniface VIII, but the Blacks seized Florence while he was away and exiled him from the city.

Kristeva now begins to consider the theme exile in The Divine Comedy and she notes the presence of Ulysses in the text, which describes that wanderer as being beyond divine law. Kristeva goes further stating that ‘it is at the heart of Paradise that the exile’s destiny is presented’ and the foreigner’s destiny is to ‘journey toward divine love’ (106). See Canto 17 (line 55 onwards): http://www.italianstudies.org/comedy/Paradiso17.htm In this passage Dante denies ‘anchorage’ and thus enlivens ‘the entire imagination’ and Kristeva comments how ‘owing nothing to any tribe, but supported by a Christian universalism […] he embraces with the fullness of his faith, he fashions in the shape of a poem the most complex universe possible, infinity itself molded [sic] into a world’ (107).

Kristeva explains now that Dante’s prose writings such as On Monarcy (1311) also express this kind of universalism. While admitting that the piece was written with the intention of opposing the Pope and supporting the emperor, Kristeva sees a whole philosophy of universalism being expounded in this treatise. Dante is a monarchist, but he also desires ‘ another universality—a Catholic one’ (108). This is achieved via the monarch who acts as an intermediary between God and the people and in reforming the Church, the monarchy would reform the universe. Kristeva sees Dante as ‘the visionary advocate of small communities harmonized [sic] within a spiritual design’ (108).

Machiavelli

The Machiavellian State
The Renaissance state was made up of both universalism and individualism (‘the conquerors of new techniques’) and the ‘Janus headed alchemist of the Renaissance’ was Machiavelli (109). In Discourses on Livy (1513-1520), Machiavelli took his example from the Roman Republic in studying, ‘how the passions of private individuals can be repressed by the laws to which citizens submit’, whilst also using the Roman ethos as a stick with which to beat Italian States (109). What Machiavelli called for might now be called ‘international law’. Kristeva also notes that ‘state control is a Machiavellian idea’ springing from the naturalist metaphors of The Prince (1513) (109). Kristeva does not see such a huge difference between the republican Discourses and The Prince as both want ‘to reinforce the state: republican or princely, it owes it to itself to be organic, in other words strong’ (110). Here are the origins of the ideology of the modern state.

For Kristeva, Machiavellianism is equal to patriotism, since Machiavelli’s efforts were ‘in the name of a finally united and consolidated Italy, shielded from the lords’ intrigues and the barabarians’ [sic] assaults’ (110).

On the restoration of the Medici in 1512 Machiavelli was abruptly dismissed because of his loyalty to the previous regime and his friendship with Piero Soderini, and thereafter he lived in forced retirement on his small estate near San Casciano, south of Florence. It was here that Machiavelli convinced himself that only a prince could now strengthen the nation state and such a nation could only be created in contrast to others: ‘against the mercantile, antidemocratic Venice, against Spain, the spoilsport of Christendom’ (111).

Kristeva pauses for a moment to commend the ‘far more positive and enthusiastic’ humanists of France:
• Guillaume Budé (De l’institution de princes, 1516),
• and Claude de Seyssel (La Grand-Monarchie de France, 1519).
For Kristeva, ‘a blance of Frenchness and cosmopolitanism […] would remain one of the most prestigious traditions of the monarchy’ (111).

Rabelais

From Rabelais the Marvelous to the Marvels of the World by Way of Erasmus
Kristeva now considers François Rabelais (1483?-1553). Although more commonly known as a comic writer and satirist, Rabelais was also a bold humanist and a prudently fierce champion of religious reform in an Erasmian spirit. Kristeva quotes from Rabelais’ book Quatre Livre in which Pantagruel uses the odd phrase: ‘As we raised and emptied our glasses, good weather has been raised likewise’ (111). Kristeva reads this phrase in a number of ways:
• in terms of the writer’s politics: ‘rising above the constraints of history’ (111);
• in terms of the book’s narrative: ‘taking advantage of the clearing weather to speed up the journey’;
• and in terms of the writer’s approach: ‘dreaming, imaging, pushing reality to the point of fantasy’ (112).
The journey of Pantangruel and his companions is also a voyage ‘toward myth. dream, ideal, wealth, and happiness, but passing by, in the same volume the strange world of excess’ (112).

We read this as meaning that, neither Protestant nor Catholic, but surely an evangelist like Erasmus, Rabelais was seeking another way. And if his conclusion leads to an Epicureanism that is both Christian and Erasmian, which the themes of eating, drinking and elevation-delight in time proceed to unfold, this land of plenty was reached by going through a strangeness that was indeed made up of marvels, but above all woven with excessiveness and obscurantism. (112)

Kristeva now mentions settings such as:
• Sneak’s Island ruled by King Lent ‘ a stupid and sterile monster’ representing bigotry (112);
• The Protestant features of the Chitterlings on Savage Island;
• the Papimaniacs and Popefigs;
• the scholars of Trebizond representing occult sects;
• Ennasin Island’s alliance of affectation and snobbery;
• Clerkship’s laws and corruption;
• the spouting whale that represents prejudice;
• the Island of Ruach’s conceited dreamers;
• Medamothy a “Nowhere Land” brimming with wealth;
• the Island of Cheli’s bountiful victuals;
• and the island of the Gastrolators and Messer Gaster who love eating.
There are also the strange settings such as:
• the Isles of Vacuum and Void;
• the Storm;
• the Isles of Macreons illuminated by signs of foreboding such as comets and meteorites;
• and finally Quatre Livre is a journey without end.

Kristeva recognises Rabelais’ technique of inserting human strangeness into a physical landscape and Kristeva believes that Freud’s uncanny may have some bearing on a reading of Rabelais. The book is also written in a new genre of travel writing that was popular during the 13th to 16th century created by explorers such as Marco Polo and Jourdan Cathala de Severac. Kristeva notes that such explorers read the places and peoples discovered in fantastical ways: ‘To the actual discoveries they had made, these explorers would add Western or Islamic legends, even seeing the inhabitants of new lands as fabulous birds’ (114). Rabelais’ wisdom was clear in his consciousness that ‘those mirabilia had their source in our own world, in our dreams and political conflicts’ (114). However, the ethnographic discourse swung from one extreme to another and if it could not make fantastical creatures of its subjects, it would simply reduce them to Western logic. In ethnographic discourse, it eventually became clear that ‘other people do not correspond to our intimate strangenesses, but that the other is simply… other’ (114).

From writers like Rabelais though, there emerged a genre in which by taking a journey, one discovers the flaws in one’s own country. Kristeva now mentions Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) and Gulliver’s Travels. Other proponents might also be Edgar Allen Poe (18909-1849) or Henry James (1843-1916). and James Joyce (1882 – 1941). But to return to Rabelais, Kristeva sees him as ‘an inner cosmopolitan’ who ‘heralded Montaigne’ (115).

Kristeva sees in Rabelais, ‘the placid, somewhat despondent lucidity of Erasmus’ (115). Desiderius Erasmus was a humanist, reformer, moralist, and satirist. His most important controversial works centered on the debate with Luther, which Erasmus inaugurated with a tract on the freedom of the human will. He was influenced by Netherlandish piety and also the revival of classical learning initiated in quattrocento Italy. Erasmus’ didactic and satirical works urged the need for Catholic reform but opposed separation. Kristeva mentions his desire ‘for just wars[…] to unify Europe and the Christian Church’ (115). She also notes how he writes on diverse subjects (‘prostitutes, beggars, an ignorant priest and an intellectual woman’) and in different genres. Kristeva recognises that Erasmus’ universalism is based ‘upon an amused recognition of the human comedy’ just as Rabelais’ is (115).

Thomas More by Hans Holbein from 1527

Thomas More: A Strange Utopia
Kristeva now turns to Thomas More’s Utopia (1515). More was friendly with Erasmus, and he became a patron and critic of art as well as serving Henry VIII as Lord Chancellor. The Oxford Companion to English describes the manner of More’s death:

Although willing to swear fidelity to the new Act of Succession, More refused to take any oath that should impugn the pope’s authority, or assume the justice of the king’s divorce from Queen Catherine, 1534; he was therefore committed to the Tower of London with John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, who had assumed a like attitude. During the first days of his imprisonment he prepared a Dialoge of Comfort against Tribulacion and treatises on Christ’s passion. He was indicted of high treason, found guilty, and beheaded in 1535. His body was buried in St Peter’s in the Tower and, according to Thomas Stapleton, his head exhibited on London Bridge. The head was later buried in the Roper vault in St Dunstan’s, Canterbury.

Kristeva describes Utopia as a manifesto of Christian humanism set ‘against a backdrop of sea journeys, geographic discoveries and “good savages” ’(116). It is an ‘essay-romance’ that takes its cue from Amerigo Vespucci. The protagonist, Raphael, offers his observations and meanwhile philosophises about the utopian state.

On the island of Utopia, the inhabitants:
• abhor tyranny;
• share all wealth;
• abolish private property;
• work only 6 hours per day;
• offer social assistance and leisure;
• and respect culture and religion.

Yet Kristeva also detects the possibility of:
• use of colonialism and imperialism to solve problems of overpopulation;
• the precedence of collective want rather than individual desire;
• brutality of war;
• moralism and ‘abusive planification’ reminiscent of Orwell (116).

Kristeva notes a number of negative words or figures in the text such as:
• the Achoriens who lack a territory;
• the mirage city of Amauratum;
• Adamus, the prince who lacks any subjects;
• and the description of Raphael himself as letting ‘inventions shine’.

Kristeva wonders to what extent the utopis is simply a dream that oscillates between, ‘national imperatives and universalist fantasies’ (117).

[I]f all utopias seem attainable today, if modern life is about to achieve them, perhaps we should try to avoid them in order to recover a non-utopic society, less perfect and more free… But how can one be free without some sort of strangeness? Let us be of nowhere, but without forgetting that we are somewhere… (117)


Kristeva asks ‘By What Right Are You A Foreigner?’

Riots in Paris

Kristeva hopes in this section to ‘bring out the overall legal status of foreigners throughout history and to sketch a comparison with the present situation’ (95).

Jus Soli, Jus Sanguinis
Kristeva wonders how to define a foreigner. Could it be ‘one who does not belong to the group’, an entity defined in an exclusive or ‘negative’ fashion, ‘the other of the family, the clan, the tribe’ or the heathen and heretic (95)? The foreigner may be ‘born on another land, foreign to the kingdom or the empire’ (95).

Kristeva notes that two legal systems were created to deal with the foreigner:
jus soli (Latin for ‘right of the territory’): a right by which nationality or citizenship can be recognised to any individual born in the territory of the related state;
• and jus sanguinus (Latin for ‘right of blood’): the rule by which birth in a state is sufficient to confer nationality, irrespective of the nationality of one’s parents.
The systems are either territorial or nativist and these new roles of the nation state indicate that the foreigner has now become, ‘the one who does not belong to the state in which we are, the one who does not have the same nationality’ (96).

Kristeva wonders why foreignness instigates such fascination and horror and she points out that although other factors of difference such as gender, sexuality, religion etc. may converge with foreignness to some extent, the foreigner has a particular quality of otherness. The possibility of threat or benefit from the foreigner dictates what rights are offered to him.

If political regulations or legislation generally speaking define the manner in which we posit, modify, and eventually improve the status of foreigners, they also make up a vicious circle, for it is precisely with respect to laws that foreigners exist. Indeed without a social group structured about a power base and provided with legislation, that externality represented by the foreigner and most often experienced as unfavorable [sic] or at least problematical would simply not exist. (96)

Kristeva notes that although many groups based on philosophy (Stoics) and religion (Christians) have offered equal rights to foreigners, these are only enjoyed in a ‘spiritual city’ (97). As one set of foreigners ins included by such movements, another set of foreigners is created to be excluded. This is where political jurisdiction should play a part, yet when pressured by social or political powers, it gives way. The final check is ‘moral and religious cosmopolitanism’ (97).

Man or Citizen
Do we have rights as men and women or as citizens? Kristeva refers to Hannah Arendt’s account of the rise of totalitarianism which is seen as being inextricably bound up with the problem of the foreigner in modern society. Kristeva thinks that the problem is precisely in the separation of the rights of man from those belonging to the citizen. This creates a paradix where ‘one can be more or less a man to the extent that one is more or less a citizen’ and ‘he who is not a citizen is not fully a man’ (98). (See Judith Butler). Kristeva highlights that the difficulty surrounding foreigners ‘follows from a classical logic, that of a political group and its peak, the nation-state’ and this logic is ‘based on exclusions’ (98). Kristeva sees two solutions to this problem:
• ‘global united states of all former nation-states’ where the rights of men are integrated;
• or ‘small political sets’ formed by ‘humanistic cosmopolitanism’ with a statute introduced to protect the rights of foreigners (98).

Without Political Rights
Kristeva tries in this section to outline the rights that are denied to foreigners:
• mainly the foreigner is excluded from public service;
• foreigners are often denied the right to own real estate
• the right of inheritance is complex for foreigners;
• and foreigners are sometimes arrested without good reason.
Kristeva notes that all countries are different however and she notes that France has been more sympathetic to foreigners with its social protection, yet this only extends ro civil rights, not political ones.

*A Second-Rate Right?
Kristeva notes that although foreigners are affected by political changes, they are often denied the right to vote. The foreigner is rendered passive. Administrative power over foreigners turns their rights into second-rate rights and foreigners rebel by maintaining their cultural allegiances with the mother country.

Thinking the Commonplace

Facing the problem of the foreigner, the discourses, difficulties or even the deadlocks of our predecessors do not only make up a history; they constitute a cultural distance that is to be preserved and developed, a distance on the basis which one might temper and modify the simplistic attitudes of rejection or indifference, as well as the arbitrary or utilitarian decisions that today regulate relationships between foreigners. The more so as we are all in the process of becoming foreigners in a universe that is being widened more than ever, that is more heterogeneous beneath its apparent scientific and media-inspired unity. (104)


More of Kristeva on ‘Paul and Augustine: The Therapeutics of Exile and Pilgrammage’

Saint Augustine

Citivas Peregrina
The civitas peregrine comes from the Roman definition of a community of high status and here Kristeva begins to consider Saint Augustine who wrote of wicked and paradisaical cities, as the Jews longed for a return to Jerusalem. She cites Enarr. in Psalm 64:1-2 and 2-3 in which the city of Babylon is dominated by ‘the voice of the flesh’, while Jerusalem ‘hears the song of our heart’. To separate oneself from Babylon was a ‘true transubstantiation’ and a ‘pilgrimage’ according to Augustine. Kristeva recognises the desire in such writings to change the foreigner into a pilgrim and she describes the civitas peregrina as ‘a psychic momentum and a community of mutual assistance that seemed like the only solution to uprooting, with neither rejection nor national assimilation, the religious element preserving the ethnic origin, which it dominated at the same time through the availability of a psychic and social experience that is other’ (84).

Differences between the worthy and unworthy, the faithful and unfaithful, the good and the bad—and even the heretics: those are not to be reconciled but brought together through the possibility of giving and the acceptance of what is given. The pilgrim gives and receives, his wandering having become gift is an enthusiasm: it is known as caritas . (84)

Caritas
Caritas is Christian love of humankind or charity. Kristeva approves of its sentiment because the foreigner is no longer estranged ‘within the universality of love for the other’ (84). However, the desires of human beings could obstruct the universality of caritas: ‘The fate of the foreigner in the Middle Ages—and in many respects also today—depended on a subtle, sometimes brutal, play between caritas and the political jurisdiction’ (85).

Peregrine Hospitality
The word peregrine is best known as referring to a bird of prey, but it comes from the Latin Peregrinus meaning ‘foreigner’ or ‘stranger’. The Oxford Dictionary of First Names explains that Peregrine was a name borne by various early Christian saints, perhaps referring to the belief that men and women are merely sojourners upon the earth, their true home being in heaven. In this section, Kristeva considers the sojourns of pilgrims and the hospitality that they could expect to receive. What grew up was ‘a lodging industry’ (85). Kristeva notes that this kind of hospitality is a factor in other religions too, such as Islam.

At first there were only tabernae (inns) and hospitia (hotels) but later the xenon or xenodochia appeared, an institution described by The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium as a philanthropic establishment based on the principle of Christian hospitality often founded by a private citizen, where food and lodging were free. Kristeva explains that such organizations were often built near churches and were run by monks or special stewards who were considered to be ‘the holiest of priests’ (86).

However, such hospitality was only offered to Christians, so that while a foreign Christian was not a stranger, the foreign non-Christian was. To prove their faith, Christians needed a letter (litterae commicatoriae or literae formatae_) which acted as a passport. Kristeva wonders whether the hospitality of Christians forced many travellers to become Christians as a means of survival. Such rules marked the beginning of dogmatism, that tendency to lay down principles as undeniably true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others and Kristeva sees in such beginnings the seeds of the Inquisition.

Feudal society was also developing bringing new changes to the foreigner’s status. When not born on a lord’s land, the foreigner was an aubain and whether that foreigner gained a right to remain in that place was down to economics.

Consequently the Middle Ages experienced two attitudes where foreigners were concerned: one, Christian, with its advantages and abuses, now protective, then persecutive; and the other, political, which was modified along with the evolution of feudalism toward a centralized feudal State, and which submitted the foreigner to economic demands according to the views of the local political powers (either, “the foreigner is in excess”, or, “we need the foreigner”). (88)

The Late Empire: Integrating the Peregrines
The idea of the peregrine was beginning to be ‘blurred’ later and gained a ‘mystical drift’ (88). Peregrines had been absorbed into the Roman Republic in a similar manner as foreigners were accepted into the French Republic during its annexation (1795-1814). Previously peregrinus had been in conflict with civis romanus (Roman citizenship), but it began to change meaning, referring now to a person from the provinces. There were new foreigners though to replace the old ones: the barbarian and heretic.

Although Romans welcomed some barbarians in the 4th and 5th centuries, they did not have the same legal status as Romans. Rather they were:
deditices (defeated people with uncertain legal status subject to tax);
feoderati (joined the military but exempt from tax);
laeti (freed barbarian prisoners);
• and gentiles or gentes (inferior to laeti, but granted concessions for military service and upkeep of limes (frontiers)).

Later the laws were changed so that barbarians could rise to civic office and barbarians often became leaders in the military, for example:
• Dagalaiph,
• Merobaud,
• Bauto,
• Arbogast,
• Alaric,
• Stilicho,
• and Athaulf.
Kristeva compares this with ‘Islam calling in Christians or Jews before the Crusades; Chinese emperors naming foreigners to public offices; medieval India integrating its para-disi (“men from another land”)’ (89). In Rome, there were also mixed marriages which went against Roman law and became common by the beginning of the 5th century.

Kristeva believes that this mixing of peoples inflects the use of the term Romania. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium explains that this was a Latin term created in the 4th century as a way to describe the Roman Empire, especially in contrast to the barbarian world. It originated in a Christian milieu and as Kristeva notes was ‘often identified with the Roman Church and conflicting, by its very nature, with the barbarians outside as it did with the heretics inside’ (90). Eventually Christianity was imposed on the Roman Empire and heretics became the new foreigners. Kristeva sums up: ‘One foreigner drives out the other’ (90).

The Elusive Foreigner in the Middle Ages
Kristeva now returns to the aubain and his position in a foreign seigniory (feudal lordship). The foreignness of the subject would depend on the tolerance of his previous community and on the jurisdiction of the lord. Focusing on French history, Kristeva notes that the aubain was not a serf to be taxed but a free man, yet the aubain could fall into serfdom were he to stay in a place for more than a year and an aubain was always serf to the king.

Although everyone was supposed to make an oath to a lord and join a seigniory, the rules about land, serfdom and aubains were very complicated. At the beginning of the 12th century, there were still differentiations made between settled foreigners (advenae) and visiting foreigners (peregrini).

Gradually the king became the one with most power over aubains and though the aubain did not have a debt of servitude, the term became associated with the inability to pass on inheritance which falls back to the king. The aubain then ‘is no longer a foreigner’ (93).


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