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Title: Milk and blood : maternal frameworks in Old French literature
Author: Sinclair, Fionnùala Ealasaid
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1997
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The thesis considers the depiction and function of maternal characters within late twelfth and thirteenth-century texts, a topos which varies according to genre. The main generic category of the study is that of the chanson de geste, with additional chapters on romance, and on didactic literature pertaining to women. The ideological constructs of contemporary religious and medical teachings on the feminine/maternal provide an introduction and a background to the study, while modern feminist theory is used as a methodological and critical approach. The first chapter examines the inherent ambiguity of didactic texts, including those by Etienne de Fougères, Raymond Llull and Philippe de Novarre. The prescription of a code of ideal female conduct is here implicitly and constantly undercut by the sexualisation of the female body through the very strategies of writing which would seek to contain it, a problem which appears notably in Robert de Blois' Chastoiement des Dames. The authoritative stance taken by these texts is haunted by a fear that the very prescription of an ideal of behaviour may be symptomatic of failure, a disquiet also given voice by the many negative examples they cite. A tension is thus produced between the projected containment of female sexuality and the intimation that didactic writing always, by form and by content, undercuts its own prescriptive enterprise. Chapter 2 studies the role of the mother in the romance, in particular Guillaume de Dole and La Manekine. These texts reflect the concerns of didactic literature in their emphasis on female chastity and fidelity. Chapters 3-5 then compare the depiction of maternal characters in the chanson de geste. Although chansons de geste (e.g. the Crusade Cycle and Berte as Grans Piés) and romance both appear to subscribe to an idealised and ideologically-conforming model of femininity, in the chanson de geste constructions of the maternal are often undercut by the narrative disquiet which these can produce.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available