'Wommanly Noblesse:' Female Gender Dynamics in Medieval Romance

Mary Elizabeth Shaner, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

Exploring systemic, gendered power dynamics and inequalities for women within medieval Matters of Rome, France, and Britain Romances is essential to understanding real-world sociopolitical power structures and female gender roles. Diverging from most previous scholarship in my use of critics as well as in my interpretation of Criseyde and Guinevere as protagonists, my argument examines how scholars would laud the heroic bravery of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Criseyde and Sir Thomas Malory’s Guinevere if they were male heroes, yet because of the narrative conventions of medieval Romance, Courtly Love, Chivalry, and the Antifeminist Traditions, these fictive women are seen as the destroyers of Troy and Camelot, respectively. My work examines how medieval texts construct female characters, which shows how modern-day critics (subconsciously) misread Chaucer’s and Malory’s social critiques of gender dynamics. This work seeks to understand these misinterpretations in order to uncover how gender politics function today as a result of these literary and historical legacies. Both Chaucer and Malory use female protagonists to interrogate the gender politics of their own respective medieval societies, showing in literature how sociopolitical female gender dynamics within Romance conventions as well as Chaucer’s and Malory’s contemporary societies restrict and confine real women. Thus, Chapters One and Two study Criseyde’s and Guinevere’s respective constructions in order to show how patriarchal societies, including literary criticism, create, gender, and police women in Romance, medieval and contemporary societies.

Subject Area

Medieval literature|British and Irish literature|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Shaner, Mary Elizabeth, "'Wommanly Noblesse:' Female Gender Dynamics in Medieval Romance" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI13426591.
https://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI13426591

Share

COinS