Gender and sexuality

Examine representations of gender, sex and relationships in medieval literature, from the works of women's writers to tales of courtly love to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

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A close reading of Chaucer's ‘The Merchant’s Prologue and Tale'

Article by:
Jenny Stevens

Jenny Stevens introduces 'The Merchant's Prologue and Tale', exploring the way in which it combines literary genres and traditions, and refuses to give the reader a clear moral or message.

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Women writers

Women’s voices in the medieval period

Article by:
Mary Wellesley

Drawing on examples from Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich and Christine de Pizan, Mary Wellesley considers the experiences of women as writers and producers of texts in the medieval period, and reflects on the survival of their works.

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Love and chivalry in the Middle Ages

Love and chivalry in the Middle Ages

Article by:
Laura Ashe

In the Middle Ages, the greatest knight was not simply the greatest warrior. He was also kind, courteous, generous and devoted to his lady: qualities that combined to produce perfect chivalry. Laura Ashe explores the ideal of chivalry through several works of the period.

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Aldhelm's riddles, to illustrate the Exeter Book riddles in context

The Exeter Book riddles in context

Article by:
Megan Cavell

The Exeter Book, compiled by 10th-century clerics, contains a number of surprisingly euphemistic riddles. Megan Cavell explores what these bawdy puzzles tell us about sex and gender in Anglo-Saxon England.

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Waves to illustrate the elegies of the Exeter Book

The elegies of the Exeter Book

Article by:
Michael Bintley

The poems in the Exeter Book known as the 'Old English elegies' focus on loss, separation and the transience of earthly things. Mike Bintley explores these poems, which include The Wanderer and The Wife's Lament, and highlights the parallels between the elegies and the riddles in the Exeter Book.

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Saracens and racial Otherness in Middle English romance

Saracens and racial Otherness in Middle English romance

Article by:
Claire Harrill

Claire Harrill considers how 'Saracen' characters are portrayed in Middle English romances, and what these texts can reveal about ideas of Otherness in this period.

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anchoress banner

The life of the anchoress

Article by:
Mary Wellesley

During the medieval period, hundreds of women chose a life of prayer and contemplation, shut up alone in a cell. Dr Mary Wellesley explains the path to becoming an anchoress, how anchoresses spent their days and what medieval texts such as Ancrene Wisse and Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love can tell us about anchoritic life.

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Further themes

Language and voice

From the development of Old and Middle English to the innovations of William Caxton and the printing press: explore language and voice in the medieval period.

Heroes and heroines

Discover some of the earliest heroes and heroines in English literature, from Beowulf to King Arthur. What are the typical characteristics of a medieval hero, and what can this reveal about society in the Middle Ages?

Gender and sexuality

Examine representations of gender, sex and relationships in medieval literature, from the works of women's writers to tales of courtly love to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Myths, monsters and the imagination

A shadowy man-eating monster, a strange green knight, and fictional accounts of journeys around the world: investigate the boundaries between the real and imaginary in medieval literature.

Faith and religion

From stories of saints and demons to reflections on life and death, God and salvation: discover how medieval literature navigates matters of faith and religion.

Form and genre

Dream visions, heroic poetry, riddles and mystery plays: approach medieval literature through the lens of form and genre.