The Once and Future Queen: Examining the Importance of Feminist Readings of Wace's Roman de Brut
Few scholars seem to think of the twelfth century as an era during which the humanitarian leaps and bounds made in regards to women are exemplary and inspiring. The strictures of the Catholic Church dominated the feudalistic society, and women were encouraged to be chaste, silent and obedient. However, it was during this century that Eleanor of Aquitaine was born. An exemplary ruler, she also was a patron of the arts, and Master Wace, a writer and translator of Arthurian legend, dedicated his Roman de Brut to her. As a queen with revolutionary ideas about female agency, Eleanor's patronage provided Wace an outlet with which to modify gender hierarchies. Wace's text presents alterations in social ideologies regarding women and demonstrates how new women's roles were being introduced to early British literature. His representation of females and their domain in his Arthurian work encourages modern readers to realize that his version of the Arthurian legend is a stepping-stone to later, more overtly feminine works, such as Marie de France's Lanval. Because of Wace's text and his possible model for feminine values, Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Arthurian legends have gradually become celebrated for their diverse portrayals of women. The following original thesis and examination of scholarship has been conducted to provide Arthurian scholars a more accurate picture of the complex messages that Wace subtly discusses. By looking at the textual evidence provided in the Roman de Brut as well as investigating scholarship that either details the time period or interprets the work, it becomes clear that western literary society would have very different ideas about women in Arthurian legend if not for Wace's inclusion of influential females in the early tales. Certainly Wace recreated the legend of the once and future king by making it fit for a queen.
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Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Arts and Sciences
Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences; Arthurian romances; Eleanor -- of Aquitaine, Queen, consort of Henry II, King of England -- 1122? 1204; Marie -- de France -- 12th cent -- Criticism and interpretation; Wace -- ca. 1100-ca. 1175 -- Roman de Brut; Women in literature
Length of Campus-only Access
Honors in the Major Thesis
Dressel, Susan, "The Once and Future Queen: Examining the Importance of Feminist Readings of Wace's Roman de Brut" (2004). HIM 1990-2015. 377.