Constructions of Femininity in Medieval Romance and the Jim Crow South Open Access
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This project aims to delve into the layered, complex, and problematic relationship between white supremacy and the Middle Ages through the context of the Ku Klux Klan’s obsession with chivalry and the defense of white womanhood during the Jim Crow era in the American South. In order to do so, this text first analyzes Anglo-American medievalisms of the 19th and 20th centuries, then moving to analyze constructions of femininity within the Ku Klux Klan, with specific emphasis on the ways in which white womanhood, and the need to defend it, was used to justify racial persecution during the Jim Crow period, which lasted from the end of Reconstruction in the late 19th century until the late 1960s. After establishing a foundation for 19th and 20th century constructions of femininity, this text then moves to the work of Chretien de Troyes in order to establish constructions of femininity as they existed in chivalric romance. Because femininity is often defined through the spaces that women in chivalric romance inhabit, this text then moves to the lais of Marie de France, with a focus on castles, feminine spaces, and the confinement of women to traditionally feminine spaces.