Medieval scholar focuses on modern romances

Most professors of medieval English literature read Chaucer or Boethius, but one scholar is setting her sights on a far more mundane subject: the world of modern "bodice-rippers".

Using Harlequin's "Medieval Lords and Ladies Collection", she is examining what the books reveal about people's perceptions of the middle ages, as well as what the modern romance reader wants in a medieval story.

One of her findings is that episodes of sexual violence, which have largely been phased out of other Harlequin romances, are still prevalent in the medieval genre.

Sadly, I must say

that the problems noted with the Harlequin romances are common to our modern culture's views of the Middle Ages. Ask Jay Random Passerby to give you a thumbnail sketch of the period and they are very likely to tell you that people were unwashed, ate food that had been in the pot for days on end, wore filthy brown tunics, etc. And they would probably agree with the perception of sexual violence as a norm. Hollywood certainly is not helping in this matter.

I know that many of us battle these misconceptions- I certainly have been banging the 'period food is good', 'they did not live like pigs', and 'bathing is medieval too!' drums until I'm exhausted, but it's like bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon.