DIANE MONICA SAWYER, Fordham University


Li Fet des Romains, a thirteenth-century anonymous compilation about Julius Caesar, contains numerous female characters. This thesis examines them and demonstrates that, although they are essentially borrowed from Lucan's poem the Pharsalia, they are nevertheless adapted to reflect the views of medieval Church and State leaders; included are certain attitudes about women. As a corollary, this thesis' comparison of the two works reveals the endurance and inauthenticity of many gender-specific stereotypes. The Introduction indicates that significant alterations occur in the French text and that the compiler's views are pervasive. As a result the women characters are polarized to underscore behavior perceived by some as helpful or harmful to the militant French nation. Chapter I examines Lucan's Pharsalia and presents the female characters: the women associated with Caesar and his opponents, women involved with religion or sorcery, and anonymous groups. Attention is given to the impact on the female characters of the attitudes which shape the work, of conventional portrayals, and of the fears conveyed about women. Chapter II studies the effect of militant patriotism on the women characters of Li Fet des Romains. Noticeably designed to advance the values which brought prominence to France, the heroines idealize the role of the warrior's womenfolk to the extent that other female roles appear questionable. Chapter III views the medievalized women characters from a religious perspective. Under scrutiny are the image of Mary, attitudes prevalent in patristic works, religious concerns in a patriarchy, and the compiler's reaction to French women's religious experimentation. Chapter IV analyzes the female characters regarding the roles emphasized in epic and romance literature. As the conflicting demands of love and war are underscored, the medieval work seems to contrast those heroines who support national and familial causes with those who seek self-interests. The Conclusion discusses Li Fet des Romains' female characters from two perspectives: as a continuation of previous scholarship on the text and in light of feminist scholarship concerning the depiction of women. This indicates that the heroines promote the status quo as they convey fears about innovations which might shift power away from men toward women.

Subject Area

Literature|Middle Ages

Recommended Citation

SAWYER, DIANE MONICA, "THE WOMEN CHARACTERS OF "LI FET DES ROMAINS"" (1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8709234.