Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


Article of the Month

Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.

April 2016 [Posted April 2017]

a Sufi saint, grinding grain, 14th century
A shepherdess with her flock and dog, French, c. 1410-1414 Source: British Library, MS Harley 4431, f. 221. Public domain.

Harris, Carissa M. "Rape Narratives, Courtly Critique, and the Pedagogy of Sexual Negotiation in the Middle English Pastourelle." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 46, 2 (2016): 263-287.

Abstract: "This essay focuses on Middle English pastourelles, a popular but understudied medieval lyric genre centrally concerned with women's experiences of the threat of sexual violence. This genre offers contemporary audiences a rich and valuable resource for understanding medieval ideas about rape and resistance. The pastourelles closely echo the language of courtly love lyrics and thus function as a critique of courtly ideology, for they expose its violent denial of women's erotic subjectivity. Some pastourelles feature antirape pedagogical methods familiar to modern educators, including peer education models and the use of risk avoidance discourse. The genre's narrative diversity and pedagogical possibilities are particularly evident in a unit of three pastourelles copied in the early sixteenth-century Welles Anthology along with male-voiced poems of courtly love and misogynist vitriol and female-voiced erotic lyrics, demonstrating how the pastourelle can reinforce certain rape myths, authorize women's desire, and challenge courtly paradigms." [Reproduced from the journal page on the Duke University Press website.]