Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Romance of Origins: Language and Sexual Difference in Middle English Literature

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Romance of Origins: Language and Sexual Difference in Middle English Literature

Article excerpt

Gayle Margherita, The Romance of Origins: Language and Sexual Difference in Middle English Literature (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994). xvi + 214 pp. ISBN 0-8122-3217-8, £32.95 (hard covers); ISBN 0-8122- 1502-8, ¿13.95 (p/b).

The focus of this book is neither 'romance' nor 'language' but psychoanalysis. Gayle Margherita means to provide a forum 'wherein feminism, psychoanalysis, and historicism might productively intersect' (p. 161), but the most accurate of the book's numerous self-descriptions is that it offers analysis of medieval texts set against readings in Freud, Lacan and Kristeva, to explore the 'relationship between sexual and originary fantasies' (p. 3). The book discusses allegedly 'extracanonical' texts {The Book of Margery Kempe, Juliana, Harley lyrics) in chapters 1-3, and 'canonical' texts (The Book of the Duchess, Troilus and Criseyde, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) in chapters 4-6. 'Originary' becomes a conspicuously flexible term. Margery Kempe is found to be preoccupied with the loss of originary textual and maternal authority. Juliana champions 'ethnic' religious faith and dismembers the feminine body in the service of inherited patriarchal/religious myth. The secular Harley lyrics 'veil' femininity, thereby intimating the 'absence or lack wherein sexual difference is thought to originate' (p. …

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