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Between the Sheets: Reading Beds and Chambers in Late-Medieval England

Morgan, Hollie (2014) Between the Sheets: Reading Beds and Chambers in Late-Medieval England. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the cultural meanings of beds and chambers in late-medieval England. It argues that the cultural phenomenon of the chamber, which emerged in England in the later middle ages, had profound and wide-reaching effects on late-medieval society and affected both those who had chambers and those who did not. This thesis has a strictly interdisciplinary approach, using a range of literary, documentary, visual and archaeological sources, and demonstrates how these sources informed and were informed by cultural associations and assumptions surrounding the bed and chamber. Its analysis of how members of society considered and interacted with the bed and chamber contributes to current discourse on space and objects. Additionally, its in-depth analysis of how cultural meanings of the bed and chamber were articulated and perpetuated sheds new light on late-medieval literature and social practice. This thesis is structured around a set of precepts known as “Arise Early”. Chapter One, “Fyrst Arysse Erly”, reconstructs the physical components of both real and ideal beds and chambers. Chapter Two, “Serve Thy God Deuly”, focuses on the bed and chamber as an appropriate space in which to encounter God and engage in domestic piety. Chapter Three, “Do Thy Warke Wyssely […] And Awnswer the Pepll Curtesly”, analyses how the cultural associations of the bed and chamber with intimacy and sound judgement impacted on personal and political communication and administration. Chapter Four, “Go to Thy Bed Myrely/ And Lye Therin Jocundly”, explores the chamber as a space for communal and individual leisure, the cultural link between beds and books, and the chamber as a space for the appropriate expression of emotion. Chapter Five, “Plesse and Loffe Thy Wyffe Dewly/ And Basse Hyr Onys or Tewys Myrely”, focuses on the ways in which the bed and chamber were understood in relation to both licit and illicit sex and demonstrates that the marital bed was considered to be the only acceptable locus for sex. Chapter Six, “The Invisible Woman”, explores the powerful link between women and beds and chambers in late-medieval England and demonstrates that chambers both contained and empowered women. Finally, my conclusion demonstrates how these complex cultural meanings were interwoven and highlights the importance of interdisciplinarity in approaching an understanding of the past.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Centre for Medieval Studies (York)
Depositing User: Dr Hollie Morgan
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2014 12:06
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2016 00:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7185

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