Peggy McCracken offers a feminist historicist reading of Guenevere, Iseut, and other adulterous queens of Old French literature, and situates romance narratives about queens and their lovers within the broader cultural debate about the institution of queenship in twelfth- and thirteenth-century France.
Moving among a wide selection of narratives that recount the stories of queens and their lovers, McCracken explores the ways adultery is appropriated into the political structure of romance. McCracken examines the symbolic meanings and uses of the queen's body in both romance and the historical institutions of monarchy and points toward the ways medieval romance contributed to the evolving definition of royal sovereignty as exclusively male.
"An original and invaluable contribution to our understanding of gender/power relations in the Middle Ages, medieval apprehensions and expectations of powerful women, and the ways in which presumably male writers imagined such women's behavior."—John Carmi Parsons
"A provocative study of an intriguing subject. . . . The Romance of Adultery establishes perceptive and tantalizing connections between literature and history while sensibly resisting the teptation to see the former as a reflection of the latter."—Romance Philology