A mother’s movement : exploring the effects of exogamy on maternal performance in medieval romances

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Reba Katherine Beeman (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Amy Vines

Abstract: This dissertation, A Mother’s Movement: Exploring the Effects of Exogamy on Maternal Performance in Medieval Romances, examines medieval maternity from a primarily performative perspective to highlight the importance of analyzing this gendered group without a focus on the body. The other goal of this dissertation is to investigate images, found in Middle English romances, of motherhood in such a way that removes stigmatized understandings of the mother, which are based in the heavily troped depictions of the mother in these narratives. In most Middle English romances, these troped depictions show the mother as either the pious sufferer or the evil usurper of power, as seen with the evil mother-in-law or evil step-mother tropes. I argue that this diminishes her role both within the narrative and our social understanding of the medieval mother. Furthermore, this dissertation examines the cultural practice of exogamy and how it has a direct impact on medieval performances of maternity. Through this study, it becomes clear that the system exogamy, as it was performed in the Middle Ages, was oftentimes problematic. It of course has the positive aspects of avoiding the incest taboo and expanding society, but because the medieval insistence that it was the woman who moved, this creates a major power imbalance within a marriage. Women, here, are exchanged, are moved, into a new community. They are made outsiders through exogamous marriage and isolated, forced out of their home. Ultimately, I argue that despite the varying differences in maternal performance that is examined in this dissertation, maternity holds power over the patriarchal system. Masculine power systems attempt to diminish this power, namely through the practice of exogamy. However, maternal power remains despite this attempt; its power is highlighted through maternal practices of love, teaching, protection, and even grief.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2023
Exogamy, Maternity, Medieval, Middle English, Mothering, Romances
Romances $x History and criticism
Motherhood in literature
Marriage in literature
Endogamy and exogamy

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