This project proposes a diachronic comparative research, based on a varied corpus of narratives and treatises, into the establishment, evolution and effectiveness of medieval ideals of masculinity in monastic and profane circles. The research will concentrate upon texts that were written or were circulating in the Low Countries between the second half of the 11th and the beginning of the 14th centuries.
Three dimensions of manhood will be distinguished: traditional role models, social relations, and external manifestations. The diachronic aspect of the research will be realised by focusing on the evolution of masculinity throughout three major phases of monastic and profane renewal and diversification. In a first phase the role of traditional Benedictinism in confrontation with the contemporary feudal aristocracy and militia will be highlighted; then the rise of reform-minded orders such as the Cistercians in search of ascetic renewal and the contemporary establishment of the chivalric and courtly culture; and finally the role of the urban mendicant orders and the new mercantile elites.
In short, it is the aim of this study to enhance our understanding of high medieval ideals of masculinity, as they have had a defining influence on the further development of Western gender stereotypes.