Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (School of Arts and Sciences)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Karen McCluskey

Second Supervisor

Deborah Pike


Le Roman de Silence is a strikingly modern, yet much overlooked, thirteenth-century French poem, detailing the life of Silence, a girl who is raised as a boy to circumvent the king’s new ban on female inheritance. In exploring themes such as inheritance, justice and law, nature vs. nurture, cross-dressing heroines, morality and corruption, and what it means to be a good king, the poem raises intriguing questions about traditional medieval gender roles and power structures. The thesis examines the poem’s diverse expressions of masculinity and femininity within the gendered arenas of the battlefield and the bedroom. Drawing on the History of Experience as a methodology, it seeks to understand the extent to which the author’s literary imagination reflected aspects of life as it was lived by his contemporaries. It interrogates the world that influenced the poem, the author’s perceptions of that world as witnessed in the poem, and the degree to which those perceptions reflect the lived experiences of noblemen and women in the twelfth to thirteenth century Anglo-French sphere. Ultimately, the thesis examines the extent to which literary productions can assist historians in reconstructing the lived experience of past people. By approaching the study through the unique intersection of literature and the History of Experiences, this thesis aims to bring a new perspective to the growing body of literature on Silence.