Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Maistresse of My Wit: Medieval Women, Modern Scholars

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Maistresse of My Wit: Medieval Women, Modern Scholars

Article excerpt

Maistresse of my Wit: Medieval Women, Modern Scholars, ed. Louise D'Arcens and Juanita Feros Ruys, Making the Middle Ages 7 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004). x + 384 pp. ISBN 2-503-51165-1. euro75.00. The twelve essays in this collection engage with the challenging question of 'the bonds that develop between scholars and the particular medieval women they study' (p. ix), looking at the ways that the writing practices of medieval women intersect with those of contemporary feminist scholarship, and at the roles of feminism and medieval studies in shaping individual identity. The aim is 'reciprocal feminist medievalism' (p. 4), and some unconventional approaches are employed. The focus of the first section is the practice of medieval studies. The first pair of essays, by Wendy Harding and Philippa Maddern, is presented in the form of an intellectual exchange, with their respective considerations of the Paston letters and the correspondence of Elizabeth Clere framed by interchanges raising questions of gender, genre, and academic study, and employing fictionalized medievalism to probe the boundary between medieval studies and medievalism. Constant J. Mews surveys the development of his scholarly interest in Hildegard of Bingen in the context of scholarly and popular attitudes to her; Earl Jeffrey Richards similarly explores his relation with Christine de Pizan, placing this in terms of ideological and critical attitudes. Louise d'Arcens also looks at Christine, with particular regard to her identity as woman and scholar, and her appeal within medieval studies. The second section treats ideas of empathy, ethics, and imagination, commencing with Nicolas Watson's essay 'Desire for the past' (reprinted from Studies in the Age of Chaucer, 21 (1999)), revisited by Watson in an afterword that addresses issues of gender and appropriation. …

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