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Thinking Medieval Romance$
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Katherine C. Little and Nicola McDonald

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795148

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198795148.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 October 2021

Romance and Revelation

Romance and Revelation

(p.134) 7 Romance and Revelation
Thinking Medieval Romance

Emma O’Loughlin Bérat

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores how the characteristically secular and literal genre of romance helped to make biblical allegorical narratives, like John’s Revelation, relevant to the human experiences of lay readers. It compares representations of motherhood in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century English illustrated Apocalypse manuscripts and the fourteenth-century romance Octavian, showing how both texts depict motherhood in secular and allegorical terms that relate to the experiences of lay female readers. The first third of Octavian echoes the story of the Woman of Revelation 12, the Woman clothed with the sun who flees to the wilderness after delivering a son, but it refigures her narrative in the decidedly secular terms of the Empress’s labour, exile, and loss of her sons. In contrast to the male-orientated, frequently misogynistic, exegetical tradition, Octavian shows how romance provided a flexible and informal space to interpret biblical allegory through different lenses of human experience.

Keywords:   Northern Octavian, illustrated Apocalypse manuscripts, Woman of Revelation, secular women readers, maternity, biblical interpretation

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