Feminist Critical Analysis of Queen Guinevere
Watkins, Fiona K., 1998--
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Under the direction of Dr. Clifton, I will explore the depiction of Queen Guinevere, beginning with the medieval texts Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, published in 1485, and The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine De Pizan published in 1405. The Book of the City of Ladies establishes what medieval society considered to be exemplary women. From these idealized women I am able to evalutate Malory’s Guenevere in terms not of feminism, given medieval women would not have been able to imagine the concept, but morality. There is no doubt that Guinevere’s similarities to the biblical women Christine describes makes her a mostly moral character. I am using Le Morte D’Arthur as a baseline for Guinevere, given it served as the inspiration for the two modern texts. A History of Feminist Literary Criticism edited by Gill Plain and Susan Sellers provides more background on the evolution of feminism, and with this historical context I am able to examine the modern texts via a feminist critical approach while adhering to the feminist theory at the time each piece was written. When comparing Guenevere to more modern portrayals of Queen Guinevere in The Once and Future King by T.H. White and The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley it becomes evident that only Bradley’s Gwenhwyfar is a feminist character. Gwenhwyfar is not a distant or impassionate character; rather she is vulnerable and realistic. In addition, she is a focus of the story, which was written by a woman, satisfying two demands of the second wave of feminists. T.H. White’s Guenever is given more focus and dialogue, but ultimately falls short of the first wave feminist desire for a well-rounded, moral, female character. When comparing Malory’s Guenevere to modern texts, this allowed me to highlight more clearly how feminism, and Guinevere’s portrayal, has evolved.