Chrétien de Troyes’s Erec et Enide is about a husband’s appalling and disturbing mistreatment of his wife. Yet, this article contends, it can also be understood as a (perhaps surprisingly) critical reflection on sexual consent, which overlaps with key concerns of both medieval canon law and modern consent theory. In dialogue with each of these domains, this essay studies, first, how particular episodes not only call attention to the importance of sexual consent but also to factors that mitigate it—as well as to the more general limitations of the concept. Second, the article explores how the larger adventure series, which makes up the core of the romance, is persistently engaging with some of the knottiest issues in both medieval and modern thinking on sexual consent, such as its relation to equality, silence, volition, and the active/passive binary. Finally, the article reflects on the implications of considering this courtly romance alongside modern consent theory. On the one hand, modern theory pushes the medievalist to confront what is at stake in deeming Enide unable meaningfully to consent to the terms of her union with Erec. On the other, this medieval romance responds with crucial insights on, in particular, the history of the relationship between patriarchy and the concept of sexual consent.

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