A Good Woman Is Hard to Find: Conversion and the Power of Feminine Desire in Bevis of Hampton
Author: Erwin, Bonnie J
Source: Exemplaria, Volume 23, Number 4, Winter 2011 , pp. 368-389(22)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:Josian, the Saracen princess who converts to Christianity for love of the hero in Bevis of Hampton, is simultaneously idealized and unsettling. Her conversion highlights the vital importance of feminine desire in validating and sustaining Christian chivalric masculinity, as well as the political systems buttressed by this masculine ideal. Drawing upon postcolonial theory, this article illuminates how Josian's conversion allows her to pursue her desires and enhance her personal power by assimilating a Christian identity. At the same time, Josian's alterity — her outsider status as a woman and as a former non-Christian — allows her to challenge the patriarchal regulation of the Christian community even as she ostensibly conforms to that community's ideals for feminine behavior. Ultimately, Josian's conflicted position as both admirable and threatening reveals fourteenth-century concerns about women's desire and the regulation of community.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Wittenberg University
Publication date: 2011-12-01