DUNMORE, Pa. — Kara Stone, assistant teaching professor of English at Penn State Scranton, presented her research paper at the recent “Secrecy and Surveillance in Medieval and Early Modern England Conference” hosted by the Swiss Association of Medieval and Early Modern English Studies.
“Secretly Sinful Mothers and the Practices of Female Surveillance in 'Sir Gowther' and 'The Awntyrs off Arthure at the Terne Wathelyne'" looks at how the secretive world of female desire and sin occupies a central role in many late medieval romances.
“This preoccupation with female secrecy leads to a type of literary surveillance that seems to speak to a larger cultural fascination with textual control over women’s actions,” Stone said.
“Two late medieval romances, 'Sir Gowther' and 'The Awntyrs off Arthure at the Terne Wathelyne' depict the mothers as sinful, with their transgressions happening outside of the bounds of societal control,” she asserts. “Both mothers’ images and actions circumvent the traditional roles assigned to women in late medieval art and literature as nurturers and teachers.
"Instead, these mothers, whether through their physical manifestations or outward actions, illustrate a different type of femininity that implies danger to both the domestic sphere and to societal order," she added.
“By examining these secretly sinful mothers, I consider why female surveillance or the need to control improper female action is so important in the narrative structure of these romances,” Stone explained. “I argue that these modes of literary surveillance reflect late medieval societal concerns and practices and suggest that the mothers’ sins and secrets affect their offspring from a gendered perspective.”
The Swiss Association of Medieval and Early Modern English Studies (SAMEMES) was founded in June 2007 by professors and scholars from the English departments of all Swiss Universities.
SAMEMES aims to establish and maintain ties between scholars in medieval and early modern English studies; explore critical and theoretical interests common to scholars of medieval and early modern English studies; organize an international conference in Switzerland on a topic in medieval and early modern English studies every two years; and publish a volume based on the preceding international conference every two years.