Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Widely overlooked since the late 19th century, three versions of the medieval religious exemplum "The Incestuous Daughter" offer a glimpse into medieval England' s ideas about sexuality and religion. The evaluation of the variation in language among the three versions, as well as a comparison of the usage of now extinct word forms found in each manuscript, point to a late 15th to early 16th century origin. A study of the content of the texts, the physical movement of the texts, and the relationship of these elements to the religious teachings and political disturbances of the time in which the manuscripts were copied reveal a tendency of different society figures to use these types of texts for various agendas and interests. Guided by the teachings and influence of St. Augustine of Hippo, religious figures used texts like "The Incestuous Daughter" to influence moral values. The tale addresses the specific concern of sexuality and reproduction, an area in which medieval English people relied heavily on the ideas of St. Augustine for guidance. There is some evidence that this exemplum was used specifically for a Holy Week program. Political instability contributed significantly to the distribution of the tale: as the House of Tudor took control, the monasteries and schools where the exempla were written, used, stored, or all three were shut down or reorganized, and the property of the monasteries landed in the hands of private owners. Finally, a comparison of the introductions and conclusions of the Rawlinson and Cambridge versions shows a slight variation in theme from one text to another, the importance of penance versus the grace of god, and makes obvious the style in which the missing Ashmole lines were most likely written.