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The late fourteenth-century Middle English romance Athelston explores the extent and propriety of monarchic power. Integral to this exploration are the characters of two women in the text whose enactments of motherhood reveal the very human failings of the divinely elected king and contribute to the romance’s advocation of law and the church to temper monarchic power. This article focuses on the use of space in relation to power, authority, gender, and motherhood, arguing that the writer of Athelston uses the disruption of gendered spaces, particularly in relation to pregnant women, to comment on systems of power and authority in the late fourteenth-century. It argues that the author of Athelston uses public enactments of motherhood to challenge the concept of infallible royal power.
Many thanks to Laura Kalas, Liz Herbert McAvoy, and the Gender & Medieval Studies Group for the special commendation in the GMS Graduate Essay Prize that led to me submitting this article to the Medieval Feminist Forum. Thanks also to the peer reviewers, who provided enthusiastic and supportive reviews which led to a much improved article.
motherhood, mothers, space, gender, monarchy, London, power, authority
Bolton, Kirsty "Mothers, Space, and Power in Athelston." Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 57, No. 2 (2022) : 54-78.