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Mothers and motherhood in the Middle English romances

Ju Ok Yoon, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In this dissertation, I explore the ways in which mothers and motherhood are represented in relationship to daughters in the three late Middle English romances, Sir Degrevant, Floris and Blancheflour, and Lay le Freine. Throughout my dissertation, I seek to shed light on the revisionary or utopian inclination that romances as a genre embody through their marginal characters, including mothers and daughters, and their transgressive desires. And I conceptualize mothers in the three medieval romances as agentic subjects who not only enact but also reshape the established power that is most often represented as patriarchal authority and patrilineal inheritance system. As I construct mothers as subjects who assume ambivalent agency, Judith Butler's theories on the relationship between subjects and the power have been very useful. As a way to think about the socio-cultural context where medieval mothers may experience their individuality and motherhood and exert their agency, I look into historical accounts, including the Paston letters, that register particular aspects of realities in late medieval England that are important to my argument but romances do not illumine extensively. Then, in order to investigate the psychological and affective dimension of mothers in relation to daughters, I make use of some feminist psychoanalytical and socialist approaches. These concepts help me to perceive how the overdetermined circumstances make impacts on the psyche of maternal subjects. Keywords. Mothers, Motherhood, the Middle Ages, Romances, Agency, Subjects, Affect, Daughters, Family/Household.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Yoon, Ju Ok, "Mothers and motherhood in the Middle English romances" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3337002.