This project will study the cultural products and practices of groups of intellectuals in France and in the Low Countries in the 15th and 16th centuries, at a time where innovative forms of communication, the printing press and drama, were developing.
Scholars have often studied this media revolution and its techniques rather than the men who used it to build a new public space. Oral and written discourse in that period acquired new means of circulation, thus earning a real power of action that could influence public opinion. The individuals that appropriated these new media were often young people who were completing their formation or looking to secure a better social position for themselves, often through the creation of specific networks. They called themselves ‘orators’ or ‘rhetoricians’, claimed a great diversity of textual productions and sought to represent public opinion thanks to their ability to formulate an authoritative discourse.
The French and the Dutch teams in this project will study the products, performances and channels through which these communities of speech built their identity and asserted them in the public space. The researchers will use an interdisciplinary approach combining the methods of cultural and art history, literary analysis, philology and archaeology of the media. They chose to focus on the two cited regions, the Low Countries and France, because they presented parallel urban structures and systems of formation of the youth, as well as a common rhetorical culture based on the French language, even if they had different political systems. By analysing the writing and communication strategies of authors who were linked to the milieus of schools and universities, justice and law, as well as printers, the teams will show how these orators-rhetoricians occupied public space and, by competing, collaborating and debating with each other, reflected on political issues.