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How's Your Father? Sex and the Adolescent Girl in Sir Degarré

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

Margaret Robson
Affiliation:
National University of Ireland, Maynooth
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Summary

MY FOCUS IN THIS ESSAY is ignorance and its converse, knowledge: most particularly I want to look at adolescent knowledge about sex and the body. In this essay I shall be focussing on the development of women. There is an important distinction to be made, however, between what is privately known and what can be articulated publicly: society dictates not what can be done (sexual practices remain largely the same, the results remain the same), but what may be said to be done. This is particularly problematic for the adolescent; how is the developing awareness of sexual identity, sexual desire, to be understood? How do girls find out about their bodies and their desires in a culture where practices such as masturbation are typically subject to prohibition and remain unvoiced? The unspeakable has to obtrude itself into narratives (consciousness?) in some way other than the verbal. One of the most telling forms of communication is through the use of body language, and body language is most eloquent on the subject of sex.

The story of Sir Degarré is as follows.

The widowed king of Brittany, who will not allow his eligible daughter to marry anyone unless the suitor is able to defeat him, is met riding with his daughter to a ceremony held each year to commemorate his dead wife. On the way, the princess declares that she must leave the retinue to answer a call of nature and while subsequently lost in the forest she is violently raped by a fairy knight who declares himself her lover and the father of the son she will bear from this union.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2007

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