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Unwillingness to Love in Medieval English Romance: Consent, Coercion, and the Conventions of the Genre

Author Hannah PIERCY
Director of thesis Director of thesis: Professor Corinne Saunders, Durham University, UK Line manager in Switzerland: Prof. Dr. Annette Kern-Staehler, University of Bern
Co-director of thesis
Summary of thesis

My PhD examines the use of unwillingness to love as a literary motif in medieval English romance (mostly Middle English, but some Anglo-Norman too). I argue that this motif appears across a large range of medieval English romances, from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, from popular to courtly narratives, and from the Breton lay to late prose romances. I investigate the functions unwillingness to love serves as a literary device, particularly the extent to which it can be seen as a subversive or conservative motif, upholding, undermining, or questioning socio-cultural expectations of love, marriage, and gendered conduct. Across its various manifestations, unwillingness to love often elicits connections between romance narratives and their readers’ own concerns and experiences, I suggest, particularly in relation to issues of consent and coercion. Unwillingness to love offers a middle ground for reconsidering approaches to consent and coercion: positioned between raptus and mutual consent, it can reveal more of a varied and complex range of experiences. Drawing upon scholarship on marriage, gender, medieval readers, and queer theory, my thesis investigates the diverse functions of unwillingness to love as a romance motif.

Status finished
Administrative delay for the defence 2021