English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date



As a result of the growth of cities and the rise of a merchant class in later medieval England, the desire for privacy began to emerge alongside an increase in personal consciousness. In my dissertation, I examine the place of privacy in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England by juxtaposing elements of the private such as access, intimacy, and withdrawal in historical documents such as court records and marriage customs against canonical literature including, but not only, Chaucers Troilus and Criseyde, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Malory's Le Morte Darthur. My study explains the dynamics between privacy and place in urban property, romance beds, marriage, and widowhood by utilizing a theoretical framework developed by modern geographers; expanding on their ideas, I consider how the locative, the material, and the social influenced people's notions of privacy, and how the literature reflects those ideals. In these narratives, the way that people react to expectations of place, both geographical and social, simultaneously suggests a self-conscious political positioning and a rejection of the dominant ideology that determined proper behavior. In my research, I put court records, romances, and letters in conversation with one another to analyze an unexplored discourse on medieval privacy. My dissertation reshapes our understanding of medieval place, space, and identity and redefines the historical narrative by identifying privacy and individuality as cultural elements of the late Middle Ages.'

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Damico, Helen

Second Committee Member

Graham, Timothy

Third Committee Member

Hanly, Michael




Middle English romance, privacy, place, court records

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