Many manuals compiled in the wake of the Fourth Lateran Council for use by lay penitents construct a fictional monastic audience. This paper will trace the adaptation of the Ancrene Wisse into a manual for penitents (the Anglo-Norman Compilation) in order to argue that such works prompt readers to ‘other’ themselves by examining their sins through identification with the religious elite, and thus offered the pleasure of escapism. Without discounting the incredible power granted to the clergy by the 1215 injunction to confession, I argue that confession manuals performed a liberating role for individuals by spurring penitents to an awareness of subjectivity – not, as scholars have suggested, by encouraging readers to turn inwards, but by inciting penitents to relate to their communities.
Although scholars in recent years have studied many of the manuscripts containing Marie de France’s Fables, York, Minster Library, MS. XVI. K. 12, remains relatively uninvestigated. In terms of arrangement and selection, the York manuscript displays a remarkable degree of autonomy and individuality, differing in its omissions even from other early manuscripts. This paper proposes to investigate the distinctiveness of the York manuscript, considering what affect the particular arrangement and selection of fables has on the text’s communicative power and meaning and the significance of the accompanying hagiography, Le voyage de saint Brendan.
Many critics have observed how Malory tends to reduce the references to supernatural elements found in his sources. However, in The Tale of King Arthur, he in fact increases his allusions to magic. This paper will explore how Malory’s alterations to his source text, La Suite du Merlin, empowers Morgan and reduces her fallibility, while the French author takes pains to limit her threat to Arthur and his court. Malory meticulously differentiates between her actions and those of other women, and so the fact that he is comfortable with allowing this female character to roam throughout the text with powers of an unspecified potential, yet is careful not to let her incur disdain for all womankind, suggests Malory’s anti-misogynistic portrayal women in his text.