Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This dissertation is the first to focus on gender roles within the fourteenth-century French epic Lion de Bourges and the first work to feature extensive translations into English of this medieval text. Using the cyclical dismemberment and reunification of the Bourges family as a lens, it brings into focus the various members of the family, their relationships, and the larger thematic questions about family and society put forward by the poet. Chapter one interrogates the notion of the king as a national father figure as well as the spread of injury and violence from the father/king to the members of his family/body politic. Chapter two focuses on the symbolism of the “family name” Herpin, the “inherited disinheritance” of the Bourges heirs, and the men’s willful perpetuation of the cycle of familial dismemberment. Chapter three analyzes Alis de Bourges’s story as an example of how Bourges women are physically affected by the dissolution of the family unit and of a narrative arc in which self-harm functions as a form of self-protection and corporeal mortification. In so doing, the Bourges women attain a spiritually purified state that allows them to reunite their families. Chapter four ends the dissertation with a discussion of various Bourges family reunification scenes in relation to incest narratives.

The stability of the noble family is threatened from within and without in Lion de Bourges. While the male characters of French medieval literature have long been portrayed as “writers of history” through the accomplishment of faits d’armes, this dissertation contends that female characters also shape narratives—not through their willing participation in violent acts, but rather, by harming and/or denaturing themselves. As limited as their narrative agency is, this dissertation shows that in Lion de Bourges, the agency of women—and perhaps their role as audience of this specific epic—is even more effective and foundational than that of men.



Committee Chair

Jensen, Katharine



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