Brothers and Sisters in Medieval European Literature
Carolyne Larrington’s book, “Brothers and Sisters in Medieval European Literature,” explores the complex relationships between siblings as depicted in literature during the Middle Ages. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including epic poems, romances, hagiographies, and chronicles, Larrington provides a fascinating glimpse into the ways in which medieval writers portrayed the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood.
The book is divided into four sections, each of which focuses on a different aspect of sibling relationships. The first section, “Kinship and Conflict,” examines the tensions that often arise between siblings, particularly in cases where inheritance or succession is at stake. Larrington explores the portrayal of sibling rivalry in texts such as the Icelandic sagas and the Arthurian romances, highlighting the ways in which writers use these conflicts to explore larger themes of power, loyalty, and betrayal.
The second section, “Siblings and Society,” looks at the role of siblings within broader social structures. Larrington considers how siblings are used to represent different social classes and groups, and how these representations reflect broader cultural attitudes towards family and kinship. She also examines the ways in which siblings are portrayed as both conforming to and challenging gender roles and expectations.
The third section, “Siblings and Spirituality,” explores the role of siblings in religious literature. Larrington examines the portrayal of sibling relationships in hagiographies and other religious texts, considering how these relationships reflect the medieval understanding of the divine and the afterlife. She also looks at the ways in which siblings are used to explore theological concepts such as sin, redemption, and salvation.
Finally, the fourth section, “Siblings and the Self,” considers the ways in which sibling relationships are used to explore individual identity and selfhood. Larrington looks at the portrayal of sibling bonds in texts such as Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” examining how these relationships are used to explore questions of identity, belonging, and self-discovery.
Throughout the book, Larrington provides insightful analysis of the texts she examines, drawing on a range of critical and theoretical approaches. She also provides helpful historical context, situating each text within its broader cultural and literary milieu. With its wide-ranging scope and detailed analysis, “Brothers and Sisters in Medieval European Literature” is an essential resource for anyone interested in medieval literature, family studies, or the history of sibling relationships..