IMC 2007: Sessions

Session 805: Gender in Late Medieval Narrative, II

Tuesday 10 July 2007, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Margaret Mary Raftery, Department of English & Classical Languages, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein
Paper 805-aThe Maze Motif and Imagination in The Assembly of Ladies
(Language: English)
Alice Spencer, Università degli Studi di Torino
Index terms: Art History - General, Language and Literature - Middle English
Paper 805-bHelper-Maiden and Idealized Young Woman: Models for Malory's Elaine of Ascolat
(Language: English)
Sue Ellen Holbrook, Department of English, Southern Connecticut State University
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Women’s Studies
Paper 805-cGawain as Anti-Hero in The Jeaste of Syr Gawayne
(Language: English)
Bonnie Millar, English Place-Name Society, Nottingham
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Middle English, Sexuality

Paper a: As Penelope Doob has illustrated, the maze evokes at once the disorientation and apparent senselessness experienced by the maze walker and the perfect order and artistry admired by the viewer of the maze from above. In this paper I intend to explore the maze motif in the anonymous 15th-century poem, ‘The Assembly of Ladies’, a work which leads its readers, like its protagonists, into the bewildering heart of a highly ambiguous, multi-cursal maze without ever granting us the God-like bird’s eye view which should resolve the many issues thrown up by the text. I will suggest that the maze image is used to portray a disturbed mental state which ultimately leads to a breakdown of memory and imagination.

Paper b: The episode in which Elaine the Fair Maiden of Ascolat finds and heals Lancelot after the Winchester tournament in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur reflects two positive feminine representations: helper-maidens in romance and idealized young women in society (such as those in Christine de Pizan’s Mirror). Rather than the passivity some see, Elaine exhibits feminine agency through acts of succour. With her helper-maiden qualities of vigorous mobility and vociferous interaction as well as the moral character of the ideal ‘goode and jentill’, meaning noble, and ‘well itaught’ young woman, this baron’s daughter would appeal to the Morte D’Arthur‘s gentry-class readers.

Paper c: I will address how this romance challenges the norm of honour/chivalry through Gawain’s ignominious series of combats with the relatives of a girl he has seduced. I will explore how the text presents overlapping and competing ideological claims – through the medium of the girl’s body and discuss its function as the means by which men organise relations between themselves.