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Reimagining Gender, Reimagining Kinship: Cross-Dressing, Sex Change, and Family Structure in Four Medieval French Narratives

Adams, Karen (2017) Reimagining Gender, Reimagining Kinship: Cross-Dressing, Sex Change, and Family Structure in Four Medieval French Narratives. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In this dissertation, I show that instances of cross-dressing and female-to-male sex change in four thirteenth- and fourteenth-century French texts have both a disruptive purpose and a healing function in their relation to family structures. The alterations in identity due to cross-dressing and/or sex change provoke situations in which links of kinship are re-imagined: sometimes simply restructured, at other times erased from the narrative. I examine the representation of gendered personhood through the lens of kinship ties, and correct the tendency of previous scholarship on these texts to separate questions of gender identity from the intricate web of familial identity. By including what happens after sex change – namely, the engendering of sons – I show the ways in which sex change is coded as a holy event that begets new forms of masculinity and new relationships to kinship, inheritance, and lineage.
In my first chapter, on Le Roman de Silence, I argue that the decision to cross-dress Silence and raise him as a boy forces a reconstruction of Silence’s family itself, and that Silence’s masculine gender identity becomes a stable referent against which kinship bonds are made and unmade. In chapter two, I show that Aye d’Avignon, the cross-dressed grandmother in Tristan de Nanteuil, reaffirms her role as a mother despite her Saracen masculine disguise, while at the same time she remakes herself into the carrier of lineage through the representation of her lactation and breastfeeding. In my third chapter, also on Tristan de Nanteuil, I show that the construction of Blanchandin(e)’s identity, from pre-cross-dressing, to cross-dressing, to sex change, is connected to disruptions caused by incest and same-sex marriage, as well as concepts of religious identity and conversion. In chapter four, I analyze the effects of sex change on masculine identity and the establishment of lines of lineage between fathers and sons in Yde et Olive II and Croissant. In chapter five, I examine Blanchandin’s son Saint Gilles, who has a special role as a saint, a redeemer of those who have committed incest, and as the unifier of the fractured Nanteuil family.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Adams, Karenkda9@pitt.edukda9
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBlumenfeld-Kosinski, Renaterenatebk80@gmail.comrenate
Committee MemberHogg, Chloehoggca@pitt.eduhoggca
Committee MemberReeser, Toddreeser@pitt.edureeser
Committee MemberWaldron, Jenniferjwaldron@pitt.edujwaldron
Date: 19 January 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 21 October 2016
Approval Date: 19 January 2017
Submission Date: 30 November 2016
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 321
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > French
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Le Roman de Silence; Tristan de Nanteuil; Yde et Olive; cross-dressing; sex change; kinship
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2017 16:25
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2017 06:15


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