Recent scholarship has been preoccupied with questions of rape and consent in late medieval literature, partly influenced by the Me Too movement while we continue to grapple with Geoffrey Chaucer’s allegation of raptus. In such a climate, medieval texts that likewise challenge the normalization of rape in literature and society require renewed attention and critical interest. The three fifteenth-century poems I examine in this article, The Assembly of Ladies, The Floure and the Leafe, and The Isle of Ladies, push Chaucer’s dream vision tradition in a new direction, presenting us with female-centered models of cooperation, care, and governance. They show what the world would look like if women could move freely through public spaces; they highlight the value of mutual aid and collaboration; and they even give us a taste of revenge. Just as we should identify a spectrum of sexual violence within rape culture, ranging from harassment to assault, we should learn to identify a variety of types of resistance to rape culture, ranging from complaints to silent defiance to fullscale revolt.
Thank you to the Medieval Association of the Midwest for their panel at the 2019 International Congress on Medieval Studies that sparked the impetus for this paper and research project, and to Alison Langdon for some extremely insightful comments. Thank you as well to Clare Davidson, Tekla Bude, Christy Pottroff, and David Klassen for their invaluable feedback on subsequent drafts, and to the two anonymous reviewers of Medieval Feminist Forum.
dream visions, Me Too, late-medieval literature, feminism, rape culture, resistance, community, patriarchy
Johnstone, Boyda J. "Envisioning a World Without Rape in Late Fifteenth-Century Dream Narratives." Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 58, No. 2 (2023) : 7-39.