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Practising shame

Female honour in later medieval England

By Mary C. Flannery

Practising shame
Paperback

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Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1007-7
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: November 2021
  • BIC Category: 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, Medieval Literature, Literature: history & criticism
  • Series: Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture

Description

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.

Reviews

'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.'
Katie Barclay, Journal of British Studies

'Flannery confronts the similitude between medieval and contemporary expectations and denigrations head-on. In so doing she has written a powerful and scholarly work that highlights both the relationship between interiority and outer behaviour, and the textual communities which have for so long created particular and gendered visions of identity.'
Megan Cassidy-Welch, Emotions: History, Culture, Society


'To say that Mary Flannery's Practising shame 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.'
Christopher Michael Roman, Studies in the Age of Chaucer

'a powerful and scholarly work that highlights both the relationship between interiority and outer behaviour, and the textual communities which have for so long created particular and gendered visions of identity.'
Emotions: History, Culture, Society (EHCS)

Contents

Introduction
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
Afterword
Bibliography
Index

Author

Mary C. Flannery is a Swiss National Science Foundation Eccellenza Professorial Fellow at the University of Bern

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