The Language of Love: Medieval Erotic Vision and Modern Romance Fiction

Publication year

Both modern romance fiction and medieval unitive visions present what the culture that produced them has deemed to be the ideal relationship: between God and soul in the Middle Ages, and between a man and a woman now. Both are expressed in terms which present the establishment of this relationship as the pinnacle and pivotal experience of a woman's life, in terms which imply that in achieving this culmination she had discovered her own identity and her own reality. Paradoxically, the only discourses available to women to express this most profound of life experiences are the patriarchal discourses of church and romance, discourses which define women as passive, powerless, and corporeal. The result of this discursive restriction is that a woman's search for identity is represented as being achieved through identification with a powerful, compensatory other. (87)

A more recent example of comparison between medieval texts about women and modern romance can be found in

Wogan-Browne, Jocelyn. Saints' Lives and Women's Literary Culture, 1150-1300: Virginity and its Authorizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

I haven't listed this as a separate entry in the bibliography, because it only takes up a very few pages (96-98 or so) in Wogan-Browne's book. However, it resembles Voaden's analysis in bringing together modern romance and medieval women's religious experience (albeit in Wogan-Browne's case they're virgin martyrs). I've posted about Wogan-Browne's argument on my blog.