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The Female Reader at the Round Table: Religion and Women in Three Contemporary Arthurian Texts
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Languages, Department of English.
2001 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Stretching back at least a thousand years, Arthurian literature constitutes a vigorous and varied genre that attracts scholarly attention. In a close reading of three modern Arthurian texts, Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy, The Crystal Cave (1970), The Hollow Hills (1973), The Last Enchantment (1979), Marion Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon (1982), and Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle, Taliesin (1987), Merlin (1988), Arthur (1989), Pendragon (1994), and Grail (1997), this study focuses on the intersection between two of the genre’s motifs: religion and gender. Inspired by the medieval Arthurian tradition, which is exemplified in my discussion by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and Sir Thomas Malory’s Works, these three texts rewrite the medieval stories, not merely by changing the plots, but by expressing new political, social, and cultural views of the gendering of religion.

Stewart’s, Bradley’s and Lawhead’s novels portray different religious traditions: respectively, an eclectic monotheism, Neo-Pagan Wicca, and Christianity. They also offer different gender perspectives: in Stewart, the ungendering of the narrator and the unobtrusive inclusion of women as independent actors; in Bradley, feminist and female religion; and in Lawhead, the rejection of women as independent actors in religion.

Modelled on the feminist reader response theory developed by Patrocinio P. Schweickart, my reading centres on the female readers’ identification as moderated by her faith, and aims to demonstrate that the female reader’s response will inevitably be coloured by the objects of identification offered by the text, by their portrayal of women as religious actors, and by the feminisation of evil that is apparent in them.

Besides privileging the female perspective, my reading also attempts to recognise and critique patriarchal portrayals of women. Ultimately, my study shows that the female reader’s identification or alienation proceed from the interaction of the her own experience with the texts’ portrayal of religion and gender.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2001. , 175 p.
Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia, ISSN 0562-2719 ; 115
Keyword [en]
English language, religion, women, gender, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mary Stewart, Stephen R. Lawhead, reader response, feminism, Arthurian
Keyword [sv]
National Category
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-1476ISBN: 91-554-5093-8OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-1476DiVA: diva2:161037
Public defence
2001-10-29, Siegbahnsalen, SVC, Villavägen 4, Uppsala, Uppsala, 10:00
Available from: 2001-10-19 Created: 2001-10-19Bibliographically approved

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