UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

An island nation : saltwater, freshwater, and imperial identity in late medieval insular romance Steininger, Rowan


Extensive scholarly work has been completed investigating the place of the sea in Middle English literature, as well as the place of fens and meres in Old English works. This dissertation seeks to fill a gap in scholarship, turning to inland waters in Middle English Romance, as well as a few texts from adjacent literary cultures. Building on scholarship from the fields of medieval ecocriticism, the blue humanities, cultural identity studies, and Celtic studies, this work investigates the interactions between water in Middle English texts and English imperial identity. Interacting specifically with Sebastian Sobecki’s work on the sea in Middle English literature, the first chapter reconsiders interactions between the sea and the king in King Horn and Havelok the Dane, concluding that the sea, once it has proved the king worthy, works in service of the state. This is also true in Sir Gawain and the Turke and Fouke le Fitz Waryn, though in these texts the ecotonic spaces of islands serve as a refuge for elements which threaten the stability of the English state. The second chapter turns to inland waters such as bogs, marshes, and mists, discovering that in many Middle English texts they act against the state, creating space for the imagined other to resist assimilation. This study represents a preliminary investigation of the ecotonic spaces and inland waters of Middle English romance. Further work will consider a larger corpus of texts and bring in material from other literary cultures of the North Sea.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International