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In this article I use a blend of autoethnography and historical storytelling to explore the role of outdoor space in forming relationships between fifteenth-century men and their maintenance of hegemonic power. By weaving together three striking vignettes from late fifteenth-century England, constructed as creative retellings of the historical evidence, with autoethnographic notes on my own lived experience, I am able to fill in the gaps of the historical record and open up questions about the implications of what has been left out. I argue that the medieval cultural understanding of the outdoors as both spiritually and physically beneficial, as well as practical concerns about privacy, made orchard and garden spaces a natural site for sharing sensitive news and for deepening emotional bonds between men in ways that may have been less feasible in a busy domestic interior context. In outdoor spaces related to, but distinct from, the interior domestic space, men may have been able to exercise a homosocial intimacy freed from some of the constraints of the regulated household. This could have positive effects that nuance our understanding of the way generations of men related to one another, shifting the conversation beyond interpreting multi-generational relationships beyond strict hierarchical systems. Cultivated outdoor spaces were fruitful in ways beyond the obvious: they facilitated cross-generational empathy and fostered mutual understanding. However, the blurring of social controls and relaxing of strict etiquette around status and age in these spaces could facilitate and then cover up gross misconduct and criminal activity, up to and including rape.


Autoethnography, Cely, fifteenth-century correspondence, gender history, imaginative history, medieval English history, medieval letters, Paston, rape culture, Stonor