Gendered Chivalry

Wilkinson, Louise (2019) Gendered Chivalry. In: A Companion to Chivalry. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, pp. 219-239. ISBN 9781783273720

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With its focus on violence, power and knighthood, chivalry appears first and foremost as a masculine social ideal in both medieval literature and life. Yet the centrality of aristocratic ladies to courtly life and lordship in Western Europe allowed women to participate in chivalric culture in ways that were not entirely divorced from those of their male kin. Although women often featured in romances as lovers or unattainable figures for whom aristocratic men performed various feats of arms, they also appeared as agents, rather than as purely passive recipients of male affection or admiration. This chapter considers how far chivalric practices, values and modes of conduct were gendered, and explores how far female experiences differed from those of men between the twelfth and early fourteenth centuries. It adopts a broad definition of chivalry that encompasses the lifestyles and ideals of behaviour of those persons who belonged to the aristocracy. It also recognises that chivalric literature was interwoven with gendered ideas and stereotypes that reflected many of the tenets of elite society. This chapter argues that women occupied a distinctive place within the chivalric culture of western Europe during the twelfth, thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Although chivalry, in reality, did little to change the status of women or alter the sexual politics of the aristocracy in any meaningful way, it helped to provide a moral framework, tied to Christian values, that allowed women to be treated with dignity and which recognised their importance within families, and within the everyday mechanisms of lordship.

Additional Information:This is a peer-reviewed chapter in an edited collection.
Keywords:Chivalry, Medieval aristocracy, Medieval history, Lordship, Women, Medieval literature, Elite culture, Tournaments
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V214 English History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V130 Medieval History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V220 European History
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
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ID Code:41000
Deposited On:15 Jun 2020 10:53

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