Filicide in Medieval Narrative

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Filicide in Medieval Narrative

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Title: Filicide in Medieval Narrative
Author: McKenzie, Margaret Elizabeth
Abstract: The majority of children who appear in the narrative literatures of the Middle Ages garner attention because they mature into kings, queens, warriors, knights, or lovers. An oft ignored but significant type of literary child is the one who dies - sometimes at the hand of a parent - during the tale. This dissertation explores the purpose of such filicides featured in medieval narratives. While shocking to audiences even today, these killings have received little scholarly attention, and extant studies, though valuable, are hampered by their narrowness of scope.This study widens the field with a multilingual approach that permits the consideration of works based upon Celtic and Germanic mythology and heroic tales alongside their more famous and frequently studied continental and British counterparts. Primary texts identified through consultation of tale-type indices and reviews of secondary literature were grouped for evaluation by content: medieval adaptations of classical narratives, feudal narratives, Celtic narratives, and Germanic narratives. Historical and legal materials aid in the contextualization of these tales.These filicide episodes, regardless of origin, serve a dual purpose within their narratives, to captivate with gripping material and to educate through example. Patterns regarding victims and perpetrators transcend linguistic and cultural boundaries. Few females become victims, and all those are adolescents; male victims range in age from infancy to adulthood. All these deaths, even those where the child's characterization is minimal, highlight social anxieties, including concerns about preserving one's lineage and promoting social order. These narratives further demonstrate a sacrificial ability of mothers that was previously ascribed only to fathers.
Description: Degree awarded: Ph.D. Comparative Literature. The Catholic University of America
Date: 2012-02-15

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