Academic journal article Arthuriana

Grrrls and Arthurian Stories

Academic journal article Arthuriana

Grrrls and Arthurian Stories

Article excerpt

Why do feminist scholars (men and women) keep reading and teaching medieval stories that, like most Arthurian narratives, reinscribe patriarchal sexism? Do our politics match our reading practices? Scholars in all pre-contemporary fields ask themselves this question. Teach Hesiod's Works and Days and you perpetuate the story of Pandora (who released all evil into the world through her stupid curiosity) no matter how strongly you urge your students to resist its woman-loathing. Sure, such works spark good 'teaching moments,' yet they insidiously get inside our heads. In the last several decades, radical feminists have urged us to blast away this past by avoiding it entirely; other feminists have suggested that the interrogation of 'canonical' texts through gender analysis might equalize the gender balance; yet others suggest that we might change the temperature by amplifying access to new texts, many of them written by women. In any case, whether the protagonists and readers are men or women, our love of good stories is enduring-and Arthurian tales provides a steady stock of great stories, well told, often intellectually invigorating. One friend says we read them because they 'shine' in our emotions like sunlight hitting armor, and we identify with male and female protagonists alike. Furthermore, women often have agency- and sometimes equal empowerment with men-in medieval Arthurian texts. Modern writers pluck from these texts whatever skeletal identities suit their imaginative purposes, but they often flatten the characterization of their inherited female characters to mere names.

This collection of fine essays focuses both on how modern fiction and life represent girls and women in modern Arthurian and/or chivalric moments. Barbara Tepa Lupack's The Girl's King Arthur: Tales of the Women of Camelot is for me the strongest example of a writer whose fictive characters spring from traditional Arthurian narratives but who elaborate female achievement, thus allowing audiences of all genders to identify with women's choices. …

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