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Rhetoric and ideology in the Book of Ramon Muntaner

By Joan-Pau Rubiés


The Book of Ramon Muntaner is one of the most original medieval chronicles in any language. The aim of this essay is to delineate how Muntaner's rhetorical work expressed a very powerful and highly ideological vision of the history of the Crown of Aragon and its expansion, at a time when James II had succeeded in weathering the storm of the Sicilian Vespers, but there still remained the threat of divisions between the various branches of the family. The article begins with an assessment of the significance of Muntaner's personal experience and cultural resources for his historical vision, through a biographical sketch, followed by a summary account of the novel context of dynastic history-writing of which he became a participant. This leads to a discussion of how Muntaner's political vision, centred on the providential role of the House of Aragon, illuminates the classic problem of a Catalan-Aragonese Mediterranean empire. I emphasize how an intense but secularized religiosity supported, through a theory of power, both an extreme monarchical ideology, and a socially biased aristocratic ethos of feudal origin, all of which must be read against a contrary background of political fragility and rapid social transformation. I note Muntaner's rhetorical effort to construct a dynastic harmony through the mechanisms of family compact and vassalage, yet without developing a theory of the state. I also consider his remarkable emphasis on the Catalan nation as fundamental to the success of the House of Aragon against very powerful enemies, offering some thoughts about the nature of 'medieval nationalism'. The conclusion briefly considers the way Muntaner's active effort of dynastic, but also national propaganda, and his desire to overcome the potential separation of two cadet branches of the family in Majorca and Sicily, helps explain the emergence of the myth of a Catalan Mediterranean empire, and its persistence to modern times

Topics: DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1080/09518967.2010.540420
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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