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Marie de France: the subversive poet of Anglo-Norman England
Marie de France was a poet who most likely wrote her works during the twelfth century in Anglo-Norman England. Her lais are a collection of twelve short, lyrical romances that she claims to have translated from Breton stories that originally circulated orally. Marie uses the themes and structure of the prologue to her lais to position herself as a critic and commentator of her texts in the predominantly masculine Latin commentary tradition. She applies this critical frame to common romance tropes and motifs that often served to affirm masculine ideals and political structures. The lais “Le Fresne” and “Lanval” both depict motifs that were familiar to medieval readers, but Marie subverts to motifs to comment on the plight of women in Anglo-Norman England. Marie uses her status as critical narrator to establish feminized spaces in her stories and give voices to women who are normally silent subjects to feudal politics.