Chapter 3 Building Gender
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“Building Gender” argues that autonomy in spatial practice is connected to the development of unique narrative identity. Taking Amanda Richardson’s work on medieval English royal castles and palaces as a point of departure, and using Doreen Massey’s theorization of space, Shaw finds that the overarching weight of static architecture inhibited the spatial practices of royal women and constrained change in their narrative trajectories. Middle English romance reiterates these experiences, problematizing the vulnerability of women to the spatial machinations of men, with Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde offering a pertinent example. The tale of Melusine responds to these difficulties proactively. The taboos placed on husbands protect feminine space, and Melusine herself embarks on a vast building program as though to prove the point. The chapter concludes with an exploration of Melusine’s relationship with space and time, and its connection with her humanity.