Amid the religious tumult of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, English scholars, preachers, and dramatists examined, debated, and refashioned tales concerning Pope Joan, a ninth-century woman who, as legend has it, cross-dressed her way to the papacy only to have her imposture exposed when she gave birth during a solemn procession.
The legend concerning a popess had first taken written form in the thirteenth century and for several hundred years was more or less accepted. The Reformation, however, polarized discussions of the legend, pitting Catholics, who denied the story’s veracity, against Protestants, who suspected a cover-up and instantly cited Joan as evidence of papal depravity. In this heated environment, writers reimagined Joan variously as a sorceress, a hermaphrodite, and even a noteworthy author.
The Afterlife of Pope Joan examines sixteenth- and seventeenth-century debates concerning the popess’s existence, uncovering the disputants’ historiographic methods, rules of evidence, rhetorical devices, and assumptions concerning what is probable and possible for women and transvestites. Author Craig Rustici then investigates the cultural significance of a series of notions advanced in those debates: the claim that Queen Elizabeth I was a popess in her own right, the charge that Joan penned a book of sorcery, and the curious hypothesis that the popess was not a disguised woman at all but rather a man who experienced a sort of spontaneous sex change.
The Afterlife of Pope Joan draws upon the discourses of religion, politics, natural philosophy, and imaginative literature, demonstrating how the popess functioned as a powerful rhetorical instrument and revealing anxieties and ambivalences about gender roles that persist even today.
Craig M. Rustici is Associate Professor of English at Hofstra University.
Renowned in her day for her scholarship and eloquence, Isotta Nogarola (1418-66) remained one of the most famous women of the Italian Renaissance for centuries after her death. And because she was one of the first women to carve out a place for herself in the male-dominated republic of letters, Nogarola served as a crucial role model for generations of aspiring female artists and writers.
This volume presents English translations of all of Nogarola's extant works and highlights just how daring and original her convictions were. In her letters and orations, Nogarola elegantly synthesized Greco-Roman thought with biblical teachings. And striding across the stage in public, she lectured the Veronese citizenry on everything from history and religion to politics and morality. But the most influential of Nogarola's works was a performance piece, Dialogue on Adam and Eve, in which she discussed the relative sinfulness of Adam and Eve—thereby opening up a centuries-long debate in Europe on gender and the nature of woman and establishing herself as an important figure in Western intellectual history. This book will be a must read for teachers and students of Women's Studies as well as of Renaissance literature and history.
In the early twentieth century, marriage manuals sought to link marital sex to the progress of civilization, searching for the history of what they considered to be normal sexuality. In Heterosyncrasies, Karma Lochrie looks to the foundation of modern society in the Middle Ages to undertake a profound questioning of the heterosexuality of that history. Lochrie begins this provocative rethinking of sexuality by dismantling the very idea of normal through a study of the development of statistics in the nineteenth century. She then intervenes in contemporary debates about queer versus ostensibly stable heterosexual social and sexual categories by exposing the "heterosyncratic" organization of sexuality in the Middle Ages and by clarifying the dubious contribution that the concept of normality has made to the construction of sexuality. In medieval texts from the letters of Heloise to Lollard heretical attacks on the Church, to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, medical discourse surrounding the clitoris, and finally the Amazons of medieval myth, Lochrie focuses on female sexuality in the Middle Ages in an effort to discern a less binary, more diversified understanding of it. Lochrie demonstrates how the medieval categories of natural and unnatural were distinctly different from our modern categories of normal and abnormal. In her work we see how abandoning heteronormativity as a medieval organizer of sexualities profoundly changes the way we understand all sexualities - past, present, and possibly even future. Heterosyncrasies is a milestone in the study of sexual identity politics, revealing not only how presumptions of normality obscure our understanding of the past, but also how these beliefs affect our present-day laws, society, and daily life.
Until now the advent of Western romantic love has been seen as a liberation from—or antidote to—ten centuries of misogyny. In this major contribution to gender studies, R. Howard Bloch demonstrates how similar the ubiquitous antifeminism of medieval times and the romantic idealization of woman actually are.
Through analyses of a broad range of patristic and medieval texts, Bloch explores the Christian construction of gender in which the flesh is feminized, the feminine is aestheticized, and aesthetics are condemned in theological terms. Tracing the underlying theme of virginity from the Church Fathers to the courtly poets, Bloch establishes the continuity between early Christian antifeminism and the idealization of woman that emerged in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In conclusion he explains the likely social, economic, and legal causes for the seeming inversion of the terms of misogyny into those of an idealizing tradition of love that exists alongside its earlier avatar until the current era.
This startling study will be of great value to students of medieval literature as well as to historians of culture and gender.
Medieval Women and Their Objects
Jenny Adams and Nancy Mason Bradbury, editors University of Michigan Press, 2016 Library of Congress HQ1147.F7M33 2016 | Dewey Decimal 305.40942
The essays gathered in this volume present multifaceted considerations of the intersection of objects and gender within the cultural contexts of late medieval France and England. Some take a material view of objects, showing buildings, books, and pictures as sites of gender negotiation and resistance and as extensions of women’s bodies. Others reconsider the concept of objectification in the lives of fictional and historical medieval women by looking closely at their relation to gendered material objects, taken literally as women’s possessions and as figurative manifestations of their desires.
The opening section looks at how medieval authors imagined fictional and legendary women using particular objects in ways that reinforce or challenge gender roles. These women bring objects into the orbit of gender identity, employing and relating to them in a literal sense, while also taking advantage of their symbolic meanings. The second section focuses on the use of texts both as objects in their own right and as mechanisms by which other objects are defined. The possessors of objects in these essays lived in the world, their lives documented by historical records, yet like their fictional and legendary counterparts, they too used objects for instrumental ends and with symbolic resonances. The final section considers the objectification of medieval women’s bodies as well as its limits. While this at times seems to allow for a trade in women, authorial attempts to give definitive shapes and boundaries to women’s bodies either complicate the gender boundaries they try to contain or reduce gender to an ideological abstraction. This volume contributes to the ongoing effort to calibrate female agency in the late Middle Ages, honoring the groundbreaking work of Carolyn P. Collette.
Covering the eleventh through
sixteenth centuries, these essays suggest that influence and power may
have paradoxically been available to women despite, and sometimes precisely
because of, their subordinate position in society. Striking for its range
of scholarship, this collection explores the power and independence, relationships
and influence of medieval queens, holy women, mothers, widows, Jewish conversas, and others. Latin and Anglo-Norman hagiography, confessors'
manuals, coronation rituals, responsa literature, and legal theory
"An intriguing exploration
of a basic paradox of medieval society, and an excellent blend of theory
and gender studies with detailed work relevant for social and political
history." -- Joel Rosenthal, author of Patriarchy and Families of Privilege in Fifteenth-Century England JENNIFER CARPENTER
is a lecturer in history at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Sainted Women of the Dark Ages
Jo Ann McNamara, John E. Halborg, and Gordon Whatley, eds. Duke University Press, 1992 Library of Congress BX4656.S28 1992 | Dewey Decimal 282.092244
Sainted Women of the Dark Ages makes available the lives of eighteen Frankish women of the sixth and seventh centuries, all of whom became saints. Written in Latin by contemporaries or near contemporaries, and most translated here for the first time, these biographies cover the period from the fall of the Roman Empire and the conversion of the invading Franks to the rise of Charlemagne's family. Three of these holy women were queens who turned to religion only after a period of intense worldly activity. Others were members of the Carolingian family, deeply implicated in the political ambitions of their male relatives. Some were partners in the great Irish missions to the pagan countryside and others worked for the physical salvation of the poor. From the peril and suffering of their lives they shaped themselves as paragons of power and achievement. Beloved by their sisters and communities for their spiritual gifts, they ultimately brought forth a new model of sanctity. These biographies are unusually authentic. At least two were written by women who knew their subjects, while others reflect the direct testimony of sisters within the cloister walls. Each biography is accompanied by an introduction and notes that clarify its historical context. This volume will be an excellent source for students and scholars of women's studies and early medieval social, religious, and political history.
Sisters and Workers in the Middle Ages
Edited by Judith M. Bennett, Elizabeth A. Clark, Jean F. O'Barr, B. Anne Vilen, University of Chicago Press, 1989 Library of Congress HQ1143.S55 1989 | Dewey Decimal 305.40902
Focusing on medieval women with a wide range of occupations and life-styles, the interdisciplinary essays in this collection examine women's activities within the patriarchal structures of the time. Individual essays explore women's challenges to a sexual ideology that confined them strictly to the roles of wives, mothers, and servants. Also included are sections on women and work, cultural production and literacy, and religious life.
These essays provide a greater understanding of the ways in which gender has played a part in determining relations of power in Western cultures. This volume makes a vital contribution to the current scholarship about women in the Middle Ages.
In this volume, Georges Duby examines the lives of prominent twelfth-century French women as well as popular female literary figures of that time. Focusing on medieval notions of women and love, Duby looks for the ideological motivations for the representation of the female sex. He analyzes the ways in which women's biographies were written and how female characters were treated in fable and legend, pointing to the social and political forces at work in these representations.
The historical personages include Eleanor of Aquitaine whose several marriages brought her wealth and autonomy; the virtuous Héloïse; and the visionary recluse Juette. Duby also studies the literary figures of St. Marie-Madeleine, a composite figure who personified the essential female traits of frailty, ardent love, and evangelicalism; Iseut, literary beloved of Tristan; and two other emblematic figures, Dorée d'Amour and Phénix—women who became ladies through chivalrous love.
Provocative, informative, and entertaining, this book offers new insight on courtly love and the representations of women under medieval patriarchy.
In this volume, one of the greatest medieval historians of our time continues his rich and illuminating inquiry into the lives of twelfth-century women. Georges Duby bases his account on a twelfth-century genre that commemorated the virtues of noblewomen who had died and the roles they came to play in the history of their lineage. From these genealogical works a vivid picture emerges of the lives these women led, the values they held, and the way in which they were viewed by the ecclesiastical and chivalric writers who immortalized them.
The first section outlines the ways in which the dead—in both memory and legend—served to bond noble society in the twelfth century. Drawing on the Gesta by Dudo of Saint Quentin, the second section reflects on the roles that wives, concubines, and other women played during times of war and in the great exchanges of power that established the grand lineages of the Middle Ages. The third section reconstructs women as wives, mothers, and widows through the work of Lambert, Priest of Ardres.
In this bold reinterpretation of Women's changing labor status during the late medieval and early modern period, Martha C. Howell argues that women's work was the product of the intersection of two systems, one cultural and one economic. Howell shows forcefully that patriarchal family structure, not capitalist development per se, was a decisive factor in determining women's work. Women could enjoy high labor status if they worked within a family production unit or if their labor did not interfere with their domestic responsibilities or threaten male control of a craft or trade.