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The vast cultural, communal, and economic changes brought on by medieval conquest meant that peoples from different religious, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds were coming together to forge new collective identities. For instance, after the Norman Conquest in 1066, Anglo-Normans and Anglo-Saxons struggled to define themselves as discretely English. As boundaries of communities, cultures, nations, and power structures began to expand, contract, and blur, communal groups sought to endure the changes by bolstering their own collective identities through the process of abjecting those considered to be “Other” than the group.

Your beauty is all destroyed by pallor [ . . ]. ]86 The text’s obsessive focus on the unpleasant side effects of the pregnant woman’s changing body emphasizes the very real physical impairments that a woman endures in pregnancy. Additionally, the pregnant body threatens the promulgation of male lineage in the dangers it poses to its unborn fetus. In order to restrain the excessiveness of the pregnant body and reduce the harm it may impose on the fetus, restrictions on the pregnant body abound in medieval medical texts.

Along with the Interludium de clerico et puella, Dame Sirith represents the presence of the fabliau genre in English before Chaucer. 47 By feeding her dog mustard and vinegar, Dame Sirith is able to convince Margery that her “weeping bitch” is in fact her T H E T O P O S OF R E P RO DU C T ION 29 own daughter who has been transformed into a dog for rebuking a clerk’s sexual advances. Afraid of facing a similar fate, Margery bribes Dame Sirith to find Wilekin and essentially pays to become an adulterer.

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Annual of Medieval Studies at Central European University 12 (2006) by The Department of Medieval Studies at the Central European University


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