Physical and Psychological Distance in Warrior Society: Warfare, Courtesy and Verbal Dueling in Medieval English and Japanese Narrative

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Kikuo TOYAMA, Kyorin University, Japan
Norbert Elias, in The Civilizing Process, thinks of the medieval period as the age of both courtesy and aggressiveness. In his view, knights gradually began to behave in a constrained manner at court, but never restrained their savage joy in war throughout the Middle Ages. Mainly from the evidence of the thirteenth-century French data, he infers the standard practice in knightly class of considering or assailing others. Nevertheless, fourteenth-century England, at least, shows a quite different picture. We modify his model of physical and psychological distance in warrior society by investigating the transformation of the manner of making war and its possible relationship to the rapid development of courtesy in the case of England at the time.
The analysis of literary representations of warfare and chivalry in medieval English narrative from sociological and sociolinguistic perspectives indicates that the innovative method of combat at a distance influenced a new mode of proprieties characterized by linguistic politeness, and vice versa. However, a quite different emotional response was likely to be evoked along with new types of warfare. This can be attested in Japanese war fiction of the Middle Ages. Our results strongly suggest that courtesy among Japanese military nobility was rather enhanced in spite of the introduction of close combat. Fencing and wrestling on the battlefield, judging from such depictions, became much more important than mounted archery in Japan. In contrast, the English longbow can be considered to have made obsolete single combat accompanied by verbal dueling with ritual insults and boasts. According to the findings, similar ceremonies in earlier times may have been replaced by rational exchange of courteous self-praise on the fourteenth-century Japanese battlefield.
We argue that a different style of new tactics might have established a different mode of courtesy in warrior society.