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Female honour in later medieval England

How can one know if a woman is honourable? In medieval culture, female honour rested most heavily on one thing: sexual continence, or chastity. But how could one be absolutely sure if a given woman was chaste? Practising Shame demonstrates how, in the literature of later medieval England, female honour is a matter of emotional practice and performance – it requires learning how to ‘feel’ in a specific way. In order to safeguard their chastity, women were encouraged to cultivate hypervigilance against the possibility of sexual shame through a combination of inward reflection and outward comportment. Often termed ‘shamefastness’, this practice was believed to reinforce women’s chastity of mind and body, and to communicate that chastity to others through a combination of conventional gestures. At the same time, however, medieval anxiety concerning the potentially misleading nature of appearances rendered these gestures suspect – after all, if good conduct could be learned, then it could also be counterfeited. Practising Shame uncovers the paradoxes and complications that emerged out of the emotional practices linked to female honour, as well as some of the unexpected ways in which those practices might be reappropriated by male authors. Written at the intersection of literary studies, gender studies, and the history of emotions, this book transforms our understanding of the ethical construction of femininity in the past and provides a new framework for thinking about honourable womanhood now and in the years to come.

Sylvie Joye

himself be guided by lust, not listening to the divine message, is akin to a beast. 37 With beasts is associated violence, which goes together with the absence of reason. Violence towards women, or at least towards one’s wife, is therefore presented as unacceptable. Hincmar goes as far as to present an extreme version, if not a caricature, depicting husbands who send their wives to be slaughtered by the cook, whereas their duty is to save and purify their wives, just as Christ did with the Church. 38 The representation of masculinity no longer had any need to depend

in Hincmar of Rheims
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Hincmar’s world
Rachel Stone

sedium”: ein bislang übersehenes Werk Hinkmars von Reims in der Centuriatoren-Handschrift ÖB Basel O II 29’, in A. Mentzel-Reuters and M. Hartmann, eds, Catalogus und Centurien: Interdisziplinäre Studien zu Matthias Flacius und den Magdeburger Centurien (Tübingen, 2008), pp.  211–31. 165 Corcoran, Chapter 7. 166 Depreux, Chapter 8. 167 Isaïa, Chapter 9. 168 Devisse, Hincmar, II, pp.  1129–36. 169 See e.g. R. Stone, Morality and Masculinity in the Carolingian Empire (Cambridge, 2011); West, ‘Lordship’; G. Calvet, ‘ Cupiditas , avaritia , turpe lucrum

in Hincmar of Rheims
S. H. Rigby

dependent upon his tale, along with its framing ‘Prologue’ and ‘Epilogue’, for our impression of him. It is particularly significant that in the ‘Epilogue’ to the tale, the Host compliments the Nun’s Priest on his handsome masculinity – his big neck, his large chest, his bright eyes and his ruddy complexion – all of which suggest to the Host that, were the Nun’s Priest a layman, he would, like Chauntecleer

in Chaucer in context
S. H. Rigby

flesh, body, the passive, coldness and wetness, went a whole series of associated binary oppositions which are personified by Chauntecleer and Pertelote in the ‘Nun’s Priest’s Tale’ and by Alisoun and Jankyn in the ‘Wife of Bath’s Prologue’: masculinity

in Chaucer in context
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The problem of exemplary shame
Mary C. Flannery

importance of practising shamefastness, and to cultivate in them a hypervigilance concerning the possibility of disgrace. 6 Here, however, the implicit invitation to ponder what might have happened to Virginia and Lucretia, had they lived, also raises the question of why death and dishonour are the only options for honourable women faced with the possibility of sexual shame in these texts. I will argue that the key to the issue lies in how medieval literature depicts the relationship between ‘hardy’ masculinity (reflected

in Practising shame
Open Access (free)
Robin Norris

‘Victorian and modern views on masculinity [that] have influenced the critical reception and interpretation of male tears in the corpus of Old English literature’, as Kristen Mills argues; ‘examples of weeping men are often ignored or viewed as aberrant, while instances of women's weeping are taken as normative behaviour’. 10 In response to this tendency, in the first section of this chapter I would like simply to acknowledge the many sad men who inhabit Beowulf : the catalogue below serves as a monument. Even the main

in Dating Beowulf
Mary C. Flannery

relationship to masculine ideals of behaviour is more complicated still. For if hardy masculinity tended towards boldness and aggression, clerkly masculinity was believed to be distinguished by a certain ‘maidenly shamefastness’ (to which the Host's mocking treatment of the Clerk in The Canterbury Tales makes reference). As will become clear, however, while Hoccleve's self-presentation in La Male Regle may be drawing on this clerkly ideal, it also explicitly draws on the familiar conventions of feminine shamefastness in an effort to disarm the target of Hoccleve

in Practising shame
Open Access (free)
Troubling race, ethnicity, and masculinity in Beowulf
Catalin Taranu

reading and listening, it is anxiety that gathered so many audiences around Beowulf for so long a time. The purpose of this chapter, then, is to probe some of the points in the poem that trouble certain audiences in order to understand the ways in which these communities function emotionally in relation to the text. In particular, I pursue this work of emotional archaeology by tracing anxieties around masculinity, ethnicity, and race that found their expression in Beowulf – and that different audiences have projected on to it, first in Beowulf's sexualized encounter

in Dating Beowulf
Open Access (free)
Studies in intimacy

Featuring essays from some of the most prominent voices in early medieval English studies, Dating Beowulf: studies in intimacy playfully redeploys the word ‘dating’, which usually heralds some of the most divisive critical impasses in the field, to provocatively phrase a set of new relationships with an Old English poem. This volume presents an argument for the relevance of the early Middle Ages to affect studies and vice versa, while offering a riposte to anti-feminist discourse and opening avenues for future work by specialists in the history of emotions, feminist criticism, literary theory, Old English literature, and medieval studies alike. To this end, the chapters embody a range of critical approaches, from queer theory to animal studies and ecocriticism to Actor-Network theory, all organized into clusters that articulate new modes of intimacy with the poem.