Violence against Women in Medieval Texts

Violence against Women in Medieval Texts

Violence against Women in Medieval Texts

Violence against Women in Medieval Texts

Synopsis

This volume brings together specialists from different areas of medieval literary study to focus on attitudes toward women during the Middle Ages. The essays range from Old English literature to the Spanish Inquisition and encompass such genres as romance, chronicles, hagiography, and legal documents. In its use of well-known authors (Chaucer and Christine de Pizan) and lesser-known writers, this collection provides a rich and useful survey for researchers in women's studies and medieval literature.

Excerpt

This collection originated in sessions devoted to the study of violence against women in medieval texts, organized by Linda Rouillard and Anna Roberts for the International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo in 1995. The collection's most distinctive asset is the broad range of contexts explored by the contributors, from Anglo-Saxon hagiography (Homer) to the Spanish Inquisition (Ellis). Because of the wide geographical and genre distribution of the articles, we have arranged them chronologically, tracing in the introduction the conceptual links between the essays, which suggest other (nonchronological) itineraries of reading. Although the contributors recognize that the purpose of a text (hagiographic, narrative, or historiographic, for example) shapes the rhetoric of violence against women--that is, violence is constructed differently in different categories of texts--the sum of these studies reaches farther than the individual analyses, bringing answers to general questions concerning violence against women and its textual encoding: can we detect similarities in different retellings of violence against women, across such divides as genre, geography, and chronology? Do the texts we study indicate the presence or the elaboration of a code of violence operating beyond the boundaries of a text? Are the (narrative, physiological, ideological) rationalizations of violence against women in these texts cumulative, successive, or mutually exclusive?

The earliest context presented here is tenth-century Anglo-Saxon hagiography; by including the discussion of Anglo-Saxon texts, we contribute to filling an important gap left by previous collective discussions of body and gender. In Ælfric Lives of Saints, Shari Horner studies "a key paradox in . . .

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