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Though frequently steeped in elements of fantasy and featuring idealised or supernatural characters, Middle English romances are, at their core, concerned with the practicalities of material wealth and status among the gentry and aristocracy. This persistent concern with wealth and materiality is manifested in dramatic ways in some of the Middle English romances figuring magical women. In Melusine, Sir Launfal, and Partonope of Blois, the control of masculine-gendered objects of material wealth – and signifiers of chivalric identity – is given to the fairy ladies, rather than their knightly paramours. In their manipulation and control of these material symbols of male, chivalric identity (such as armour, weapons, and even castles), these women subvert gender norms, and assume roles of unusual power and authority over traditionally masculine spheres of influence.
gender, materialism, fairy, romance, identity, wealth, power, subversion
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Bonsall, Jane "Whose Sword? Materiality, Gender Subversion and the Fairy Women of Middle English Romance." Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 56, No. 1 (2020) : 107-133.