The "unlikely female" characters of the Mabinogi

Shimpock, Kathy E. (2017) The "unlikely female" characters of the Mabinogi. Masters thesis, University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

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Abstract

The female characters of the Mabinogi represent divergent views on medieval gender roles. Some characters are depicted in stereotypical ways — defined in dichotomy, as either Mary or Eve. Other female characters are different, for they portray women who act outside of social norms. These are the ‘unlikely female’ characters. The aim of this dissertation is to define, identify, and analyse the ‘unlikely female’ characters of the Mabinogi. The first chapter provides a literature review (of church doctrines, courtesy books and bardic grammar) to identify medieval gender assumptions. The ‘unlikely female’ characters do not meet any established gender norms. They are defined as either independent or forthright. Chapter two identifies the ‘unlikely female’ characters as Rhiannon, Branwen, Aranrhod and Gowein. Their actions and behaviours set them apart from societal expectations. The ‘unlikely female’ characters are then analysed within a background of law, history and medieval Welsh culture. The third chapter describes their creation and derivation. The continuing role of the author and scribal author is essential to understanding texts which were transcribed for over a hundred years. Scribal authors had agency and often modified or expanded texts. They were also influenced by the Church and their culture. References to mythology, folktales, hagiography and historical biography are discussed. Biographical depictions of medieval Welsh noblewomen indicate their similarity to these ‘unlikely female’ characters. In conclusion, the Mabinogi contains many references to medieval society and culture depicting gender norms. Yet as these characters developed, their mythic past may have been replaced by historic Welsh noblewomen; whose biographies show them to be both independent and forthright. By placing the ‘unlikely female’ characters of the Mabinogi in the context of medieval Welsh society, any perceived gender variations become less ‘unlikely’ and more expected

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Female characters Mabinogion Mabinogi
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Theses and Dissertations > Masters Dissertations
Depositing User: Sandra Stedman
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2018 12:51
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2018 12:51
URI: http://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/919

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