En-Gender! Volume 3 Issue 7 (2021)

Written Into Violence

The Treatment of Women’s Bodies in Twelfth Century Literature

by Ashley Thompson

Ashley Thompson is a recent graduate from the University of Glasgow, with a degree in English Literature and History. She is currently working to save up for a Masters of Research degree and is hoping to go on to a PhD, looking at gender in the High Medieval Period. She is an avid lover of reading, theatre, writing and has turned to compulsive bread baking during the pandemic.

Keywords: Sexual violence; gender; literature; bodies; twelfth century


Understanding how women’s bodies were thought of and treated in the twelfth century gives crucial insight into how medieval women lived their lives and illuminates how issues regarding bodies and gender which still affect us today stretch back nearly a thousand years. Explicit material containing such insights, however, are exceedingly rare. Utilising literature as an opening into understanding opinions and perceptions of the time, this study builds upon the work of Kathryn Gravdal to demonstrate that the troping of violence against women (particularly of a sexual nature) that occurs in the work of Chrétien de Troyes is common throughout different forms of literature by various authors in the twelfth century.

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