This essay focuses on Middle English pastourelles, a popular but understudied medieval lyric genre centrally concerned with women's experiences of the threat of sexual violence. This genre offers contemporary audiences a rich and valuable resource for understanding medieval ideas about rape and resistance. The pastourelles closely echo the language of courtly love lyrics and thus function as a critique of courtly ideology, for they expose its violent denial of women's erotic subjectivity. Some pastourelles feature antirape pedagogical methods familiar to modern educators, including peer education models and the use of risk avoidance discourse. The genre's narrative diversity and pedagogical possibilities are particularly evident in a unit of three pastourelles copied in the early sixteenth-century Welles Anthology along with male-voiced poems of courtly love and misogynist vitriol and female-voiced erotic lyrics, demonstrating how the pastourelle can reinforce certain rape myths, authorize women's desire, and challenge courtly paradigms.
Rape Narratives, Courtly Critique, and the Pedagogy of Sexual Negotiation in the Middle English Pastourelle
Carissa M. Harris; Rape Narratives, Courtly Critique, and the Pedagogy of Sexual Negotiation in the Middle English Pastourelle. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2016; 46 (2): 263–287. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-3491798
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