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Thinking Allegory Otherwise$
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Brenda Machosky

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804763806

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804763806.001.0001

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What Knights Really Want

What Knights Really Want

(p.188) Eight What Knights Really Want
Thinking Allegory Otherwise

Stephen Orgel

Stanford University Press

This chapter examines female agency within the patriarchal situations of sex and power in chivalric art and literature. Drawing on Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene and on a series of courtly images, it demonstrates that women are more typically active while men are more passive. By considering “what knights really want,” the chapter thinks through allegory without writing about allegory. It rejects the notion that knights are conventional allegorical signs and argues that chivalry is not a metaphor for some other ideal. However, in the figures of Spenser's knights, and in the women they love, the chapter identified a profound “message” about the tension between illicit sex and idealized love underlying the chivalric tradition. It shows that sex in Spenser, and in chivalry in general, is not a masculine action, but a feminine one.

Keywords:   female agency, sex, power, knights, chivalry, Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene, allegory, love, women

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