A great post from Lucy Allen. Those of you who read my post a while back on rape culture in medieval romance will see resonances here with the medieval court case Lucy discusses. Unsurprising, since all these texts are sharing in a cultural discourse that made women culpable for their own victimisation.
My research project – a study of the way medieval romances treat truth and gender – began with a question: what cultural assumptions lie behind stories that represent women as truthful or deceptive, as credible witnesses or as fantasists and liars? What can medieval and modern narratives tell us about the ways society is conditioned to believe – or disbelieve – women?
One medieval narrative that helps us to answer this question is that told by Margery de la Hulle, a young woman living in Berkshire in the thirteenth century. In a court case recorded in 1248, Margery states that, one July evening four years earlier, she had been raped by a man named Nicholas Whatcomb in Bagnor Wood, near Boxford.
At the time when Margery brought this case to court, the odds were heavily stacked against her. Medieval culture could be sympathetic to rape victims, but only when it was…
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