Medieval literary conventions do not usually allow much room for opposite-sex friendships to form, let alone constitute a key structuring relationship within a narrative. One of the few tropes which do allow for this is that of the exiled heroine and her generous host, as in the Constance narratives. These narratives deploy various strategies to locate the host-heroine relationship firmly in the domain of family rather than romance. Emaré deploys structural parallels focus on food and feasting, as Emaré’s host steps into the role of guardian and integrates her into his society, ultimately leading to her marriage to the King of Galys. This paper will examine how the feasting scenes are used to highlight Artyus’s failures as a parent and to establish Emaré’s new friend as a surrogate father-figure, taking into account how the anonymous author’s strategies differ from those of other Constance narratives, such as Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale or La Manekine.
The hero in the medieval alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has to endure a series of tests and hardship during his quest for the Green Chapel. Our aim will be to show how feasts (in both Arthur’s and Bertilak’s courts) and famine (during the hard winter Gawain has to endure in wilderness) are present in the text to underline not only the progression of time but also the inner journey of the renowned knight.
The disruptive other can erupt into the ordered, structured world of the medieval court of romance – not least on the highly formal occasion of the feast. Though the ‘otherness’ of Malory’s women is widely recognised and discussed, and studies like Byrne’s usefully examine the widespread motif of the interrupted feast, the form and function of the specifically feminine intrusion into the court on occasions of high solemnity has not been sufficiently addressed. Utilising evidence from little-studied medieval courtesy books, Johan Huizinga’s classic work on the pervasiveness of highly structured ‘play’, and Victor Turner’s theories of liminality and communitas, this paper examines the way such violent intrusions by the feminine other (markedly indecorous compared to comparable male interruptions) act as ‘social drama’ forcing breach, crisis, and reintegration.