Women and Writing in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook

Women and Writing in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook

Women and Writing in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook

Women and Writing in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook


Carolyne Larrington has gathered together a uniquely comprehensive collection of writing by, for and about medieval women, spanning one thousand years and Europe from Iceland to Byzantiu. The extracts are arranged thematically, dealing with the central areas of medieval women's lives and their relation to social and cultural institutions. Each section is contextualised with a brief historical introduction, and the materials span literary, historical, theological and other narrative and imaginative writing. The writings here uncover and confound the stereotype of the medieval woman as lady or virgin by demonstrating the different roles and meanings that the sign of woman occupied in the imaginative space of the medieval period. Larrington's clear and accessible editorial material and the modern English translations of all the extracts mean this work is ideally suited for students. Women and Writing in Early Europe: A Sourcebook also contains an extensive and fully up-to-date bibliography, making it not only essential reading for undergraduates and post graduates but also a valuable tool for scholars.


I think it would please you to have me there with the whole household, and yet you leave the choice to me. This you do for your courtesy, and I am not worthy of so much honour. I have resolved to go not only to Pisa, but to the world’s end, if it pleases you.

(Origo 1959:162)

You bid me make merry and be of good cheer. I have naught in the world to make me merry; you could do so if you would, but you will not…. Each night, when I lie abed, I remember that you must wake until dawn. And then you bid me be of good cheer.

(Origo 1959:164)

Margherita Datini’s letter to her husband, a merchant from the small Italian town of Prato, cited first above, was dictated by her in 1382; the second, rather tarter missive to the same recipient dates from a few years later. Francesco Datini was about 42 when he married his 16-year-old wife from the lesser Florentine nobility in Avignon in 1377, a marriage which was to last thirty-three years. Margherita was taught to read and write by a family friend only at the age of 30, but her letters, together with the fifteenth-century English Paston letters, are among the few writings by ordinary married women in our period. Although the great majority of the female population were married at some point in their lives, the writings by women which survive are overwhelmingly those of monastic women, who had never been, or were no longer, married. Yet the universality of marriage in one form or another is such that there are many texts which serve to flesh out a conception of the changing institution emerging in law codes and theological writing throughout the period. Marriage customs varied by region: in some places women were married when very young to men some ten to fifteen years older than they were (a pattern associated with southern Europe), or they married men of like age at roughly the same age as women now marry in the West (a northern European pattern). These . . .

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