30th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies
Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: March 27-28, 2010

Sally N. Vaughn, "Converting the Scandinavian Vikings to Christian Normans: Warner of Rouen’s Moriuht as a Tool of Conversion at the Norman Ducal Court c. 1000 A.D."

Warner of Rouen's Moriuht is a coarse Latin poem describing an Irishman, Moriuht, an the Scandinavian/Norman ducal court around the year 1000. Warner himself was clearly a very well-trained Latin scholar. His work has been viewed primarily as evidence for a strong intellectual culture existing in Rouen in the early tenth century, but modern historians admit that little of this intellectual community can be discerned or reconstructed. Nor can they explain the existence of such bizarre, rather porngraphic poetry at a reputedly Christian court.  Moriuht and the related tracts in the same, single surviving manuscript used unusual, very coarse humor as a fundamental element of their arguments. But Moriuht exhibits internal evidence that the Norman court for which Warner wrote was not all that Christian, retaining a large element of its Viking heritage.Viewing Moriuht in its political, rather than its intellectual, context may shed some light on at least the milieu of the Rouen intellectual community. This paper will argue that Warner wrote his Moriuht in the midst of an intensely competitive struggle at the ducal court at Rouen between Latin Christian intellectuals and Nordic scholars, primarily the Norse skaldic poets who competed for court influence. I suggest that Moriuht was one of these court poets. The coarseness of Warner's humor was directed not at a Latin Christian audience, but at a Norman/Viking audience imbued with and absorbing both cultures simultaneously. Moreover, it formed a part of the program of the Christian conversion of the Viking/Normans.


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