Gender and the literate culture of late medieval England

Gender and the literate culture of late medieval England

By Janine Rogers

Thesis (Ph.D.)–McGill University, 1998

Abstract: This dissertation explores the impact of gender ideologies held by medieval readerships on the production of books and circulation of texts in late medieval England. The first chapter explores how the professional book trade of late medieval London circulated booklets of Chauceriana which constructed masculinity and femininity in strict adherence to the courtly love literary tradition.

In the second chapter, I demonstrate that such a standardized representation of courtly gender could be adapted by a readership removed from the professional book trade, in this case the rural gentry producers of the Findern manuscript, who present a revised vision of femininity and courtliness in their anthology. This revised femininity includes several texts which privilege the female speaking voice.

The third chapter goes on to investigate the use of the female voice in one particular genre, the love lyric, and asks if the female lyric speaker can be associated with manuscripts in which women participated as producers or readers.

Finally, the fourth chapter turns to masculinity, examining how the commonplace book of an early 16th century grocer, Richard Hill, contains selections from didactic and recreational literature which reinforce the ideals of masculine conduct in the merchant community of late medieval London. The dissertation concludes that manuscript contexts must be taken into account when reading gender in medieval English literature.

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