Practising shame

Female honour in later medieval England

By Mary C. Flannery

Practising shame


  • eBook
  • Paperback

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: Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: classical, early & medieval, Literature & literary studies / Literature: history & criticism, Medieval Literature, Literature: history & criticism, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / Norman Conquest to Late Medieval (1066-1485), LITERARY CRITICISM / Medieval
  • 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.


'This is a timely book entering the field at a moment when the study of the history of both sex and emotion is suddenly exploding, and when greater attention is being paid to embodied experience, not least of emotion. Practising Shame will be of interest to those exploring these issues across time and place because it both offers an account with unnerving relevance for today and provides a successful model of how to answer some of these questions within a particular historical moment.'
Journal of British Studies
'To say that Mary Flannery's Practising Shame: Female Honour in Later Medieval England is timely would be an understatement. Through close analysis of popular and understudied texts, Flannery gives the reader a thorough tour of the double bind that is shamefastness, a bind that encouraged women to practice humility and yet, simultaneously, excoriated them for being false practitioners of shamefastness, as the practice was an obstacle for men's lust...In our own moment, when the integrity of women's testimony has stood at the center of high-profile trials and convictions, Flannery's book reveals how deeply this ideological misogyny is embedded.'
Studies in the Age of Chaucer


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

Newsletter Sign Up

Manchester University Press

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout