Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Sheila Fisher, Ph.D.
This thesis focuses on the medieval texts of Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” and The Book of Margery Kempe. Specifically it analyzes The Wife of Bath, as one of Chaucer’s most famous literary characters in The Canterbury Tales written in 1387 and Margery Kempe, a medieval mystic whose story is known as the first autobiography written in English in the 1432. Furthermore, this thesis explores how the Wife of Bath and Margery Kempe's relationships with literal and figurative food define their experiences as middle-class medieval wives. It is through food that the Wife of Bath and Margery Kempe are seen as fully actualized agents in their own story-telling and self-representation.
The first chapter analyzes the Wife of Bath’s deployment of figurative and literal food and discusses the Wife of Bath’s complex appetites for sex, money and social control and how food and food language reveals her self-actualized identity. The second chapter examines Margery Kempe’s status as a medieval middle-class wife and how her relationship with food and spirituality helped her to navigate social and gender expectations of the Middle Ages. Finally, the third chapter brings together these formidable women and their appetites to highlight what we can learn about these medieval wives when they are brought into conversation with one another. In the end, this project concludes that while the Wife of Bath is notoriously known as one of the most transgressive literary characters in the canon, an argument can be made that Margery Kempe is, instead, as her relationship with food reveals, more progressive because she operates almost entirely outside the marital boundaries of the Middle Ages.
O'Hara, Rhone, "Hell Hath No Appetite Like a Woman: Food Imagery in the Lives of the Wife of Bath and Margery Kempe". Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2020.
Trinity College Digital Repository, https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/theses/823