Purdue University Graduate School

File(s) under embargo

Reason: Revising for publication.


posted on 2023-08-11, 19:03 authored by Maggie R MyersMaggie R Myers


My dissertation proves that movement for both women and men is tantamount to power. The choice for a quest maiden (that is, a woman who takes part in a quest) to move between places and spaces is a choice for them to be able to change both their social and spatial positionalities. Focusing on high- and late medieval English chronicles and romance, I divide medieval Arthurian quest maidens into one of four categories based upon their movement: the static “in” and “out” groups that either remain inside a court or outside in the forest, and the mobile “inwards” and “outwards” groups that either enter into a court from outside it or who leave a court for the outside world. This diversity of categories is a novel contribution to spatial studies within Arthurian literature, as quest maidens are found everywhere across the Arthurian landscape. Such women dwell in the most intimate castle chambers as well as within the most remote forest copse. These placements are significant, as I argue that spaces are defined by the people who exist within them. As communal space is shaped and created by the multiple identities that inhabit that space, the ability to exist and shape that space becomes itself a demonstration of power. This power is expressed both by individuals, such as a knight in the woods or a queen in her castle, and by collectives, such as the Knights of the Round Table. A space gains its reputation by the deeds of its inhabitants, and those inhabitants either benefit or suffer by their space(s)’s reputation. This extends to the movement that occurs between such spaces. A maiden who enters Camelot to ask for help changes the identity of the court: it becomes a place that succors maidens. A maiden who conversely stops a knight in the Forest of Adventure helps shape that forest into a space for quests. As the Arthurian world is founded upon the questing process that these quest maidens both support and enable, their very existence shapes the form of the world. The space of the quest cannot be unlinked from the maidens who occupy and enable it.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • English

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dorsey Armstrong

Additional Committee Member 2

Robyn Bartlett

Additional Committee Member 3

Shaun F.D. Hughes

Additional Committee Member 4

Molly A. Martin