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Women's Power in Late Medieval Romance


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The cultural and social power of women in the Middle Ages is perhaps hard to trace, with evidence for it scarce. This book argues that medieval romances provide a central, but under-explored, source for and examples of such authority. By reassessing the influence exerted by female characters, in a spectrum that includes both intellectual and chivalric aid and, in some cases, patronage, it considers how they functioned as models of cultural, intellectual, and social authority in medieval literary texts. In addition to examples set by the family connections, socio-political networks, and textual communities in which they lived, this study argues that women also learned methods of influence from the books they read. In texts like Troilus and Criseyde and Partonope of Blois, the female reader encounters an explicit demonstration of how a woman`s intellectual and financial resources can be used. The literary representations of women's cultural power expose a continuum of influence from non-material effects to material sway in the medieval patronage system, an influence often unacknowledged in strictly historical and extra-literary sources.

Amy N. Vines is Assistant Professor in the Department of English, University of North Carolina-Greensboro.


[An] illuminating study [that] makes a substantial contribution not only to our understanding of medieval romance but to the fields of women's and translation studies as well. SPECULUM

Especially recommended for college library literary and women's studies shelves. MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

The close readings of English romances in their contexts of rewriting and patronage found in Women's Power in Late Medieval Romance manage to tease out certain newly nuanced insights, and suggest that yes: women could have significant influence on the creative process of romance creation, and thereby in turn influence those in their social circle with the didactic messages of the texts they recommended. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW


First Published: 20 Oct 2011
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843842750
Pages: 184
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: D.S.Brewer

Details updated on 30 Mar 2016


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  Prophecy as Social Influence: Cassandra, Anne Neville, and the Corpus Christi Manuscript of Troilus and Criseyde
  • 3  The Science of Female Power in John Metham's Amoryus and Cleopes
  • 4  A Woman's 'Crafte': Sexual and Chivalric Patronage in Partonope of Blois
  • 5  Creative Revisions: Competing Figures of the Patroness in Thomas Chestre's Sir Launfal
  • 6  Conclusion
  • 7  Bibliography