IMC 2012: Sessions

Session 831: Class and Community in Late Middle English Texts

Tuesday 10 July 2012, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Catherine J. Batt, Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds
Paper 831-aWolves and Sheep: Grid/Group Contrasts in the Towneley Secunda Pastorum
(Language: English)
Jefferey H. Taylor, Metropolitan State College of Denver
Index terms: Anthropology, Language and Literature - Middle English, Performance Arts - Drama, Social History
Paper 831-bMargery's Middle-Class Mysticism: Economy and the Self in The Book of Margery Kempe
(Language: English)
Jeffery G. Stoyanoff, Department of English, Duquesne University, Pennsylvania
Index terms: Economics - General, Language and Literature - Middle English, Lay Piety, Women's Studies
Paper 831-c'We be yemen of this foreste, under the grene wode tre': Subversion in the Middle English Ballads of Robin Hood
(Language: English)
Lisa Myers, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Social History

Paper -a:
Mary Douglas’s Grid-Group social model demonstrates that High-Grid / High-Group societies (C-quadrant) seek communal rhetorical solutions for social conflicts to justify class system inequalities. Within the festival context, Secunda Pastorum meets all these expectations for C-societies. However, the shepherds’ interactions are more characteristic of Low-Grid / High-Group (D-quadrant), and Douglas’s expectations for D are also met: age status; social frustration; acceptability of shirking; corruptions in society and nature; witchcraft; severe physical punishment for deviants. These characteristics encourage unmasking wolves in sheep’s clothing and scapegoating. The comedic elements offer ritual resolution of D-subculture difficulties, ultimately reinforcing the dominant High Grid society.

Paper -b:
We see in Margery Kempe one of the first written accounts of identity created in relation to a class and its members. The mercantile middle class of Lynn is the community into which Margery was born and in which she developed her self. It is Margery’s self and her realization of its existence separate from her identities that is paramount to a full understanding of her mysticism. Margery’s middle-class roots form her self, which results in a unique economic mysticism that interprets her ethereal visions of and interactions with Christ, Mary, et al. into tangible (and at times economic) experiences.

Paper -c:
Through the process of aforestation the common people of medieval England became increasingly alienated from the environment. In confronting this class-based tension, the Middle English ballads of Robin Hood reclaim the woodland as an impenetrable lair that keeps the prevailing society and its corrupt justice system at bay. The isolation of the outlaw’s forest home creates a base for the subversion of the society without. This paper examines the role of the forest in the earliest tales of Robin Hood, discussing the idealization of a place that stands in opposition to the real world of Forest Laws and corrupt officials.