The Political Pastoral: Shepherds, Sheep, and Wolves between Late Medieval France and Burgundy (1364-1461)


ACLS Fellowship Program


Romance Languages & Literatures


This project explores questions related to political organization and the exercise of power which continue to resonate in our current moment, when concerns about leadership may evoke the familiar metaphor of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The trials faced by Charles V, Charles VI, and Charles VII of France – including foreign invasion, mental illness, and civil war – and the broader concerns to which they gave rise, were often negotiated figuratively, via a staging of shepherd, sheep, and wolf. The complex cultural imaginary surrounding these figures – developed in Biblical sources, classical eclogues, encyclopedic works, fables and beast epics, pastourelles, visual and material culture – produces a robust range of potential meanings which writers freely deployed and recombined. “The Political Pastoral” shows how, unconstrained by generic norms, late medieval French and Burgundian authors used the pastoral mode both to delineate theoretical premises of political philosophy and to respond to urgent challenges.