Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fantasy Meets Feminism, Version N+103

I've been reading back through George R.R. Martin's "Song of Fire and Ice" (in part to see whether the latest was truly a letdown, as I'd earlier experienced), and what this reading is really enforcing is the extent to which Martin's world has taken very seriously the feminist historians' analysis of the place- and claim-holding power of marriage.

3 Comments:

Blogger DAVE, CT, USA:

I've just finished Feast for Crows and am slugging through the Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy. I've been finding lots of interesting paralells and one of them is the emergence or acknowledgement of queens (as I recall) around the 10th century. It also coincided with conversion to christianity and the "rights" of legitimate offspring. I highly recommend the latter...Plus it has nice pictures...for those times when I could care less about anything deeper than a puddle.

2/16/2006 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger rilkefan:

Could you expand a bit on what "place-and-claim-holding power" is and why this is a feminist historians' point?

2/17/2006 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Ok, let me see if I can explain myself without saying something stupid. My own expertise is in 18-19th-c stuff, so my saying something silly is rather likely.

While women were often denied holding power in their own rights, when they were directly in the line of succession for an estate, their husbands usually enjoyed their inheritance rights. Arguably, that sort of thing was the entire rationale for the law of coverture. If the princess marries some well-born schmuck with a reasonable indirect claim on the throne, then if no direct heir can claim the throne, the princess-schmuck alliance can take over without too much fuss because the princess's alienated-because-female right has been covered by the schmuck's maleness and by their marriage.

Royal succession would of course always be more scrutinized and contended than would smaller-scale feudal disputes. In that smaller scale, a widow holds property (like the Wif of Bath), and she holds a power to bestow on any male she chooses to favor.

Seriously, though, whatever I've intuited about medieval marriage realpolitik, I read in Andreas Capellanus's "Art of Courtly Love," which is obsessed with finding the right "castle" to take.

I wouldn't necessarily say that this is a feminist historians' point except that feminists forced academics to pay more attention to it.

2/20/2006 10:09:00 PM  

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