IMC 2012: Sessions

Session 631: Incest and Seduction in Middle English

Tuesday 10 July 2012, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Kevin L. Gustafson, Department of English, University of Texas, Arlington
Paper 631-aLawful and Unlawful Conduct in the Old English Apollonius of Tyre and Gower's Tale of Apollonius: A Comparative Approach
(Language: English)
Maria José Sánchez de Nieva Mazon, Universidad de Sevilla
Index terms: Daily Life, Language and Literature - Old English, Language and Literature - Middle English, Sexuality
Paper 631-b'In he pult and out he drow': Articulating Gendered Sexual Subjectivities in Two Middle English Singlewomen's Songs
(Language: English)
Carissa M. Harris, Department of English, Northwestern University
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Middle English, Manuscripts and Palaeography, Sexuality
Paper 631-cLiterary Incest in Lydgate's Siege of Thebes
(Language: English)
Alaina Bupp, Department of English, University of Colorado, Boulder
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Sexuality

Paper -a:
In mid-11th century manuscript, Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 201 features the prose Apollonius of Tyre, which opens with the shocking episode describing the incestuous relationship of King Antiochus and his daughter. As Heyworth (2007) has recently explained, the Old English text shows a notable concern with lawful marriage, as observed in the other works contained in the manuscript. The late 14th-century Tale of Apollonius, appearing in Book VIII of John Gower’s Confessio Amantis, reveals a similar interest in rightful marriage. Defined by Yeager (1990) as an ‘exemplary summa’, this tale describes the ways the male protagonist must face all the sins and vices presented in the previous sections of the work. Also, as noted by Peck (1978) and Porter (1983), incest is viewed as the worst offense not only to the family, but also to the community and the state. By offering a comparative study of these two chronologically distant romances, this paper aims at exploring (un)lawful conduct in relation to domestic issues such as marriage, parenthood, and widowhood through the antithetical pattern offered by two chief characters: Antiochus, and Apollonius. The study of these aspects in these two works can offer us an interesting insight into the ways the domestic sphere was viewed in relation to public affairs and rulership in two different periods of the Middle Ages.

Paper -b:
In Gonville & Caius College MS 383/603, two pregnancy laments voiced by young servant girls are copied onto a single recto page. In each, the speaker explicitly recounts a sexual experience with a cleric named Jack – one relates that ‘He prikede and he praunsede’ atop her, while the other recalls how ‘In he pult and out he drow’ as she lay in the dirt beneath him. This paper examines how, particularly when read together in their manuscript proximity, these two carols shed important light upon the sexual-linguistic scripts imagined for young singlewomen in late Middle English secular verse.

Paper -c:
Incest pervades the medieval literary conscience. In Lydgate’s Siege of Thebes, for instance, the incestuous themes of the Oedipus tale allow the author to purge his anxiety about his own too-close relationship with his literary father, Chaucer. By reproducing a story that is deeply embedded in literary history, Lydgate can more confidently engage in the incestuous relationship he finds necessary for the survival and perpetuation of his literary identity. The tale does not embrace this necessity, but rather treats the taboo with half-disguised contempt and anxiety, which allows Lydgate to safely distance himself from the stigma of incest. This tension between necessary union and social taboo becomes the troublesome productive force behind this tale.