The challenge we take up in this project is to flesh out if and how table manners were materialized in tableware, and how tableware contributed to changing social intercourse. Therefore, scattered information from archaeology, art history and cooking
history awaits to be integrated. This project – at the crossroads of discourse analysis and material culture studies, will consider the dialectics between individuals and materiality, by using complementary sources and methods. 1) A discourse analysis of dining manuals will shed light on shifts and continuities in the meaning of dining manners. 2) Confronting this analysis with the material culture of tableware will reveal the extent to which this prescriptive literature was really appropriated. 3) Probate inventories will prove crucial to clarify the complex downward and upward social dimensions of these manners. In order to do justice to the genuine contribution of middling groups in urban society, the late medieval cities of
Antwerp, Oudenaarde and Bruges with their shifting social textures and sociabilities were chosen for analysis.