Bound and Free: Voices of Mortal and Otherworld Women in Medieval Irish Literature (Studies and Texts) (Hardcover)

Bound and Free: Voices of Mortal and Otherworld Women in Medieval Irish Literature (Studies and Texts) By Joanne Findon Cover Image

Bound and Free: Voices of Mortal and Otherworld Women in Medieval Irish Literature (Studies and Texts) (Hardcover)


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Otherworld women feature in a number of medieval Irish tales, but they are not always powerful figures. Indeed, those who express their own desires are often disadvantaged and even threatened in the mortal world, especially when their choices are restricted by human society. The struggles they face often mirror those of mortal women; yet medieval Irish authors apparently found Otherworld women useful as vehicles for exploring social tensions and issues of contemporary concern.

Both the Acallam na Sen rach (Tales of the Elders of Ireland) and tales from the Ulster Cycle seem to deploy Otherworld women to facilitate the exploration of Irish society's emergence into a world influenced by European romance, where love shapes the choice of marriage partners despite the emotional risks -- a world where violence is, ideally, tempered by restraint; where foreigners arrive and are integrated, with greater or lesser success, into Irish society; and where the voices of women can be heard. While some Otherworld women are portrayed as seductive sirens, others are helpful, even indispensable figures, often serving as vehicles for critiques of various kinds and potentially performing important cultural work.

Bound and Free analyzes female figures as literary characters, rather than as mythological beings, focusing on their expression of emotions and the repercussions for the societies depicted in the narratives. Drawing on gender analysis, speech act theory, narratology, disability theory, and trauma theory, and incorporating recent work on emotions in medieval literature, this study probes the representation of both mortal and Otherworld women as active and desiring subjects and the affective responses that their words and actions might have generated in their medieval audiences.

Joanne Findon earned her MA and PhD at the Centre for Medieval Studies in the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on women's speech and agency in medieval Irish and English literature. Her book Lady, Hero, Saint: The Digby Play's Mary Magdalene (2011) explores the influences of secular literature on the representation of the central female character in a Middle English religious play. Her most recent work continues the exploration of women's voice, agency and emotion in medieval Irish literature that she began in A Woman's Words: Emer and Female Speech in the Ulster Cycle (1997), extending the analysis to a number of lesser-known medieval Irish tales. She is Professor Emerita of English Literature at Trent University, where she spent more than two decades teaching courses in medieval romance, Chaucer, medieval drama, creative writing, and children's literature. She lives in Toronto.
Product Details ISBN: 9780888442369
ISBN-10: 088844236X
Publisher: PIMS
Publication Date: April 15th, 2024
Pages: 230
Language: English
Series: Studies and Texts