Nugae Curialium reconsidered: John of Salisbury’s court criticism in the context of his political theory

Keskin Çolak, Ayşegűl (2012). Nugae Curialium reconsidered: John of Salisbury’s court criticism in the context of his political theory. University of Birmingham. M.Phil.


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This thesis challenges the scholarly convention that the political theory of John of Salisbury’s Policraticus occurs in the fourth, fifth and sixth books of the treatise; and the rest of the book is mainly irrelevant to this theme. By doing this, it highlights thematic and stylistic interconnections between the ‘irrelevant’ books and the political section with a method of close textual analysis. This holistic approach towards the Policraticus, which is regarded as the first thorough political theory of the Middle Ages, demonstrates that John of Salisbury, in contrast to what is generally attributed to him, does not support a hierocratic system, which amounts to the supremacy of the Church over temporal power. On the contrary, he follows a non-hierocratic line by separating the executive mechanisms of spiritual and temporal spheres. Therefore, this thesis proposes that John represents the court as the centre of the temporal sphere; and his court criticism acts as a governmental criticism because John accuses courtiers of neglecting their administrative duties. The philosophical sections of the work are also essential to understand John’s political theory because he demonstrates here that man, both as an individual and a political creature, needs the guidance of philosophy. This reconsideration of the political theory in the Policraticus is not only instrumental in showing John of Salisbury’s place in medieval political thinking but it also lays the groundwork for further investigation into the nature of twelfth-century court criticism.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.Phil.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.Phil.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: Other
Other Funders: The University of Birmingham
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
J Political Science > JC Political theory
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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