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The Romance of Adultery

Queenship and Sexual Transgression in Old French Literature

By Peggy McCracken

Publication Year: 2011

Peggy McCracken offers a feminist historicist reading of Guenevere, Iseut, and other adulterous queens of Old French literature, and situates romance narratives about queens and their lovers within the broader cultural debate about the institution of queenship in twelfth- and thirteenth-century France.

Moving among a wide selection of narratives that recount the stories of queens and their lovers, McCracken explores the ways adultery is appropriated into the political structure of romance. McCracken examines the symbolic meanings and uses of the queen's body in both romance and the historical institutions of monarchy and points toward the ways medieval romance contributed to the evolving definition of royal sovereignty as exclusively male.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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pp. ix-x

This project owes much to the institutional support offered by the Newberry Library and the University of Illinois, Chicago, and to colleagues at both institutions whose encouragement and ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xiii

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Introduction: Defining Queenship in Medieval Europe

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pp. 1-24

In 1148 rumors surfaced that Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of King Louis VII of France, was involved in an adulterous love affair with her uncle, Raymond of Antioch. Eleanor had accompanied her husband on the second Crusade, and during the couple's stay ...

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Chapter 1. Royal Succession and the Queen's Two Bodies

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pp. 25-51

In one of the earliest versions of the story of Queen Guenevere, the Anglo-Norman poet Wace notes that "she had many graces and she had a noble bearing, she was very generous and spoke well. Arthur loved ...

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Chapter 2. Royal Sovereignty and the Test of the Queen's Body

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pp. 52-83

In 830 Judith, wife of the Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious, was accused of adultery. She was said to have dishonored her family, her husband, and her country by carrying on a sexual relationship with Bernard of Septimania, the ...

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Chapter 3. Rumors, Rivalries, and the Queen's Secret Adultery

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pp. 84-118

When king Marc's barons demand that the queen prove that she remained chaste during her sojourn in the Morrois forest with Tristan, they equate the state of the queen's body with the state of the king's sovereign ...

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Chapter 4. Adultery, Illegitimacy, and Royal Maternity

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pp. 119-143

George's duby has suggested that the medieval romance representation of the barren, adulterous queen is a symptom of the anxiety produced by the possibility of illegitimacy. In romances, he suggests, ...

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Chapter 5. Seduction, Maternity, and Royal Authority

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pp. 144-170

Le roman des sept sages de Rome recounts that when the emperor of Rome's first wife dies, leaving him with a son, his counselors advise the emperor to take another ...

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Conclusion: Gendering Sovereignty in Medieval France

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pp. 171-177

In 1314 King Philip IV the fair had the wives of his three sons arrested on charges of adultery. Marguerite of Burgundy, wife of Prince Louis, king of Navarre and the future Louis X, and Blanche of Burgundy, wife of ...


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pp. 179-203


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pp. 205-218


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pp. 219-224

E-ISBN-13: 9780812202748
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812234329

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • French literature -- To 1500 -- History and criticism.
  • Romances -- History and criticism.
  • Adultery in literature.
  • Queens in literature.
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