Language and the Negotiation of Power Relationships in Selected Lais of Marie de France

Date of Award

Fall 12-22-2007

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Margaret Judith Sullivan

Second Advisor

Michael Chappell


The twelfth-century Lais of Marie de France reveal a societal move from using violence and force as the predominant method of negotiating power relationships to the use of language and words to affect the power dynamic particularly on an interpersonal basis. To illustrate this aspect of Marie’s writing and to establish a general context for a pragmatic analysis of her work, this study reviews the medieval culture from a social, political, and religious perspective as it bears upon power positions between various people and institutions that made up the medieval European world. In addition, Marie’s beliefs in regard to marriage, love, and courtliness are also investigated since these beliefs are integral to any review of her work. By applying a pragmatic approach to the study of a selection of Marie’s Lais, her particular use of language in negotiating the power relationships between her characters is demonstrated.

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