Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 4688
  • Author(s)/Creator(s):
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  • Title: Visualizing the Feminine in the Roman de Perceforest
  • Source: Seeing Gender: Perspectives on Medieval Gender and Sexuality. Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, King's College, London, January 4-6, 2002.. 2002.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Femininity in Literature Literature- Prose Misogyny in Literature Roman de Perceforest, French Prose Romance
  • Geographic Area: France
  • Century: 14
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  • Abstract: This paper will focus on an episode from the fourteenth-century Roman de Perceforest known as the conte de la rose. A poor knight is forced to seek his fortune at the royal court. To assure him of her fidelity, his wife gives him a magical rose: as long as she remains faithful to him, it will preserve its scent and freshness. When two envious knights at court learn the secret of the rose, they force the knight into a wager: if they succeed in seducing his wife and thus withering the rose, he must spend a year carrying a shield with an image of a woman riding astride a knight on all fours, and if they fail they will forfeit their lands to him. Not only do they fail, but the clever wife imprisons them and makes them spin to earn their keep: a humiliation from which the knights never recover. The story gives rise to a lai that is particularly loved by women. In this story the rose and the shield are alternative visual emblems for the autonomous woman, subject to different readings: a beautiful, steadfast, and precious thing; ephemeral, vulnerable to male predation, and as unnatural as a fresh rose in winter; as powerful dominatrix who is paradoxically also easily manipulated by masculine desire. The tale pits an anti-feminist reading against one that is more pro-feminist (or anti-misogynistic), using visual signs and coding as a primary means of expression. [Reproduced by permission of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference Organizers].
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  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
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