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.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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