The Quest for Linearity in Kinship

Résumé de la communication prévue dans le cadre du colloque

L’entreprise généalogique, Paris, 27-28 novembre 2014



Simon Teuscher (Université de Zurich)

The Quest for Linearity in Kinship. Images and Imaginations in Late Medieval Learned Literature

The paper deals with specialized learned treatises on kinship from the late Middle Ages and their concern with representing lines of descent. It discusses developments in the discussions within theology and canon law, in particular in comments on the arbor consanguinitatis. This literature had originally almost exclusively dealt with problems of implementing incest regulations and with technical problems of attributing degrees to relationships in an unequivocally bilateral system of kinship. Yet from the late fourteenth century onwards, new versions of the treatises showed a greater interest in the representation of lines of descent – mainly, but not exclusively in the form of patrilines. This was in part an attempt to reconcile canon law conceptions and diagrams of kinship with rules of inheritance and succession in Roman and customary laws. As a result the authors developed some of the theoretical foundations, methods and techniques of drawing diagrams that were later applied in genealogy and developed new notions of the physiology and cosmology of kinship that stressed continuity and identity across the passage of generations. In the course of this process, the focus in theoretical writing on kinship shifted from problems of incest to problems of organizing society along descent and dynastic groups.

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