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Somehow It’s Always About the Men

Monday, August 12, 2019 - 07:00

I found this a rather frustrating article within the context of a collection supposedly focusing on women. Because it makes the women’s single status all about how they serve as “currency” in the male establishment of prowess and reputation. I mean, it’s a valid observation about chivalric literature, but I wish space had been given to an article that focused more on women. Goodness knows there are interesting things to be said about singlewomen in chivalric literature who have agency within their own stories.

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Full citation: 

Armstrong, Dorsey. 2003. “Gender, Marriage, and Knighthood: Single Ladies in Malory” in The Single Woman in Medieval and Early Modern England: Her Life and Representation, ed. by Laurel Amtower and Dorothea Kehler. Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Tempe. ISBN 0-06698-306-6

Publication summary: 

A collection of articles on the general topic of how single women are represented in history and literature in medieval and early modern England. Not all of the articles are clearly relevant to the LHMP but I have included all the contents.

This paper begins by looking at the function of single men in chivalric literature as being free to pursue courtly love and service to all women only by not being bound to a specific woman. But the single woman--the one who requires rescuing because she has no man to act for her--is what makes the male character’s reputation possible. The paper discusses how their performance of gendered acts and relationships creates gender concepts in chivalric literature, relying on the contrast of “active man” and “passive woman.” This paper does not address singlewomen as independent actors, but as filling a role within the male/female social economy.

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