General project description

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The project ‘Uncovering Joyful Culture’ is funded by the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research NWO (duration of the project: 2015-2020). It aims at demonstrating the importance of ‘joyful culture’ as a major cultural phenomenon in late medieval and early modern society. Joyful culture can be defined as a shared system of sociability for groups and individuals organising playful performances and activities in a ritualised way, in which parody has a central role.

Building on the example of the Low Countries, the project offers a comparative, transnational approach, in order to show how joyful culture helped to bind together various social groups in pre-seventeenth-century society, and how parody was used to reinforce group identity and the sense of belonging to a community, whether at the scale of a regional political entity, a city, or a professional group. Rather than insisting on the potential of carnivalesque festivities to express tensions and social conflicts, as historians have often claimed, this project aims at demonstrating that joyful culture also had an important role in securing social stability and cohesion, thanks to the use of an inclusive form of parody, developed in themes such as friendship, the praise of drunkenness, sexuality and obscenity.

This project will thereby refresh the broader field of cultural studies, by re-evaluating concepts of the festive. Three aspects are studied to delineate the reach and significance of this festive culture, through an evaluation of its productions and the role they played in society. To do so, a range of literary texts, products and artefacts are contextualised with archival material. The production and use of these sources are investigated through the study of:
– joyful sociability as a medium enhancing a common cultural identity;
– parodic notarial writing as a tool for the education of youth;
– the circulation of the multilingual literary genre of the joyful summons as a transnational vehicle for joyful culture.


Le projet ‘Uncovering Joyful Culture: Parodic Literature and Practices in and around the Low Countries (13th-17th centuries)’ est subventionné par l’Organisation pour la Recherche Néerlandaise (NWO) (durée du projet: 2015-2020). Il explore les pratiques culturelles et la production littéraire de la culture joyeuse (en particulier une corpus de textes parodiques en français et en néerlandais), afin de démontrer le rôle essentiel de la parodie dans la cohésion sociale à l’époque pré-moderne.

Ce projet propose une approche comparative et transnationale, afin de montrer comment la culture joyeuse aidait à lier les uns aux autres divers groupes sociaux dans la société antérieure au XVIIe siècle, et comment la parodie était utilisée pour renforcer l’identité d’un groupe et le sentiment d’appartenance à une communauté, au niveau d’une entité politique régionale, d’une cité, ou d’un groupe professionnel. Pour ce faire, une série de textes littéraires et de produits culturels sont contextualisés à l’aide de documents d’archives, autour de trois axes:
– la sociabilité joyeuse comme support et moteur d’une identité culturelle commune;
– l’écriture parodique notariale et juridique comme outil de formation de jeunes professionnels;
– la circulation du genre littéraire plurilingue des mandements joyeux comme véhicule transnational pour la culture joyeuse.