Gender, exile and identity in Medieval English literature from the Wife’s Lament to the Book of Margery Kempe

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Paul Cody Cloninger (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Amy Vines

Abstract: The theme of exile in literature is used to describe several states in which an individual is either cast out of voluntarily leaves his or her community. Rather than exile being applied in a consistent and uniform manner, it operates with varying degrees, on multiple levels and with difference related to the gender of the individual. To explore how gender influences exile, I examined five Medieval personalities that exhibited exile in at least one of its forms. These exiles, two men (The Wanderer and Sir Orfeo) and three women (The Wife from the Wife’s Lament, Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe), are placed into comparison with one another to examine in what ways gender plays a role in the experiences and psychological changes that exile go through. The examination showed that while gender does play a cursory role in the experience of exile in that it determines where the exile with be sent, it is the placement itself that seems to be the most crucial component in creating the conditions that ultimately lead to the differing results for each of the five individuals. By understanding that it is the place of exile rather than the gender of the exiled person that has the greatest influence on the experience allows us to see exile in a new manner, a manner that is not contingent on the gendered normative that has previously been used as a baseline of comparison. This opens the exploration of exile along a path that breaks with the tradition of examining it in terms of the historical male/female binary and allows us to see the effects in a more individualized and unique.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Exile, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Sir Orfeo, The Wanderer, The Wife's Lament
Gender identity in literature
Exile (Punishment) in literature
Identity (Psychology) in literature
Literature, Medieval $x History and criticism
English literature $y Old English, ca. 450-1100 $x History and criticism
English literature $y Middle English, 1100-1500 $x History and criticism

Email this document to