Eve's Orphans: Mothers and Daughters in Medieval English Literature

Eve's Orphans: Mothers and Daughters in Medieval English Literature

Eve's Orphans: Mothers and Daughters in Medieval English Literature

Eve's Orphans: Mothers and Daughters in Medieval English Literature

Synopsis

"An important contribution to the growing research on the mother-daughter relationship. Stiller argues that although mother-daughterhood was rarely the dominant theme in medieval stories and poems, connections between women surface in ways that suggest a fantasy of feminine power which is threatening to men, of help to women, and strongly based on the mother-daughter bond." - New Directions for Women

Excerpt

Only a decade or so ago it was rather bad form for a woman to mention her mother favorably in public. Alienation and hostility were held to be the hallmarks of adulthood among many who considered themselves psychologically, emotionally, and sexually liberated. Whether the American second- and third-generation drive for social ascendancy exacerbated the misogynistic tendency to disavow the female parent I do not know, but it seems that a dozen years went by before women began to realize that it was in the interests of a still patriarchal society to teach women of different generations to dislike and even to hate each other: to teach mothers, for example, to resent their daughters' youth, and to teach daughters to scorn the women who had brought them into the world and who in certain cases, to be sure, had helped to bind their minds as effectively as Chinese women had once helped bind their daughters' feet.

But some of us had had different experiences, and trusting to these experiences rather than to what the medieval English would have referred to as "auctorité"--accepted authority--we began to perceive some mothers as the victims instead of the villains of history, and some as heroic in their struggle to maintain their integrity as human beings and in their whole-hearted devotion to their female children. That is the real meaning of the women's movement: the restoration of creative selfhood to all human beings and a new respect for kindness, generosity, and love.

Academe has also witnessed changes of late. Histories of the family, of manners, of childhood begin to appear--or are reissued after having long been ignored. The women's movement has opened new paths for the literary scholar and critic and has raised new questions about our judgments and, ultimately, our values. How has predominantly male . . .

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