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Chess As A Metaphor For Medieval Society

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Chapter Summary

Much of Aron Gurevich's research concentrated on aspects of medieval self-consciousness and popular culture; it also included essays on the German preacher Berthold of Regensburg, as well as original research on the "tri-partite model of feudalism". This chapter examines the interaction between imagination and social reality as well as to explain changes in medieval popular conceptions regarding social structure occurring during the difficult period of "interregnum" in 13th century Germany. A miniature in a 13th century treatise found in the collections of the British Museum depicts Death playing chess with a human being. The chapter concerns the eight pawns as personifying the various occupations of the common people. Chess represented as a spatial metaphor for society, and spatial symbolism played an important role in the distribution of the pieces on the chess board coinciding with their social symbolism.

Keywords: Aron Gurevich; chess; Germany; medieval society; metaphor

10.1163/ej.9789004186507.i-392.55
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