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Gender and transgression in the late medieval English household

McLoughlin, Sarah A. (2011) Gender and transgression in the late medieval English household. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

The household was one of the fundamental structures for late medieval social and cultural organisation. This thesis uses the concept of ‘transgression’ to explore the part the household plays in articulating ideologies of gender in late medieval England. Transgression designates both movement across the boundaries of the house and the breaking of rules that govern behaviour. I focus on a body of texts that are rarely studied but which were very popular in their own time. These include a group of lyrics known as ‘the betrayed maidens’ laments’, comic tales descended from the fabliaux, anti-feminist entertainment printed by Wynkyn de Worde, and popular romance. My approach pays close attention to the specific production and reception contexts of each text I discuss, in order to probe how they may have been understood by medieval audiences in light of the prevailing norms of gender. I examine how tropes that were in many cases already old, staples of the fabliau genre, manifest themselves in particular fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century texts and manuscripts and how they interact with prevailing social and historical conditions. Chapters 1 and 2 explore the trope of the clerical seducer, through the linked figures of the young clerk and the more established priest. Chapters 3 and 4 turn to the counterpart of the cleric in the fabliaux-like narrative - the weak or duped layman. These figures are used to give voice to anxieties about household governance and control of women’s sexuality. By focusing on how tropes circulate between different kinds of sources, and how narratives are constructed, I provide valuable insight into the resonances of the household in late medieval culture. The late medieval English household was a potent imaginative space that was used to articulate anxiety about gendered behaviour and the dangerous potential for boundaries to be crossed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: gender, transgression, household, governance, readers, cultural history, boundaries, rules, lyric, fabliau, clergy, fifteenth century, sixteenth century, Wynkyn de Worde, romance, medieval, tropes
Academic Units: The University of York > Centre for Medieval Studies (York)
Depositing User: Ms Sarah McLoughlin
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2012 14:59
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:48
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2075

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