Practising shame

Female honour in later medieval England

By Mary C. Flannery

Practising shame


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1006-0
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: November 2019
  • BIC Category: Medieval Literature, Literature: history & criticism, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / Norman Conquest to Late Medieval (1066-1485), LITERARY CRITICISM / Medieval, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: classical, early & medieval, Literature & literary studies / Literature: history & criticism
  • Series: Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture


Practicing shame investigates how the literature of medieval England encouraged women to safeguard their honour by cultivating hypervigilance against the possibility of sexual shame. A combination of inward reflection and outward comportment, this practice of 'shamefastness' was believed to reinforce women's chastity of mind and body, and to communicate that chastity to others by means of conventional gestures. The book uncovers the paradoxes and complications that emerged from these emotional practices, as well as the ways in which they were satirised and reappropriated by male authors. Working at the intersection of literary studies, gender studies and the history of emotions, it transforms our understanding of the ethical construction of femininity in the past and provides a new framework for thinking about honourable womanhood now and in the years to come.


1 Show and tell: shame and the subject of women's bodies
2 Lessons in shame
3 Shame under suspicion, shame under siege
4 Death or dishonour: the problem of exemplary shame
5 Shamefast Hoccleve and shameless craving


Mary C. Flannery is a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Oxford

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