Document Type



Master of Arts



First Adviser

Edwards, Suzanne


This thesis seeks to uncover the critique of pieties of purity in the fifteenth century Middle English Storie of Asneth in light of Levinas’s ethical theory of encountering difference and intersectional feminism. A little known text that, when studied, has all too often been reduced to predominant understandings of the ways in which medieval Christianity sought to homogenize cultural and religious alterity on the basis of purity and pollution beliefs, this thesis argues that the Storie, when considered in the complexity of its encounters, offers up a unique, non-reductive model of encountering difference that shifts our understanding of medieval Christianity’s attitude toward the “other.” As such, the Storie of Asneth deserves broader academic attention and canonization insofar as it adds to the complexity of the medieval tradition. Engaging the complex relationship between tropes of virginity, motherhood, and cultural, racial, and religious difference, the Storie of Asneth registers the ethical problems embodied by the valorization of virginity in the medieval canon, even as it imagines new possibilities for cross-cultural encounters not marked by the reductive violence inherent in systems founded upon and verified by epistemological and ontological purity.