Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Male Authors, Female Readers: Representation and Subjectivity in Middle English Devotional Literature

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Male Authors, Female Readers: Representation and Subjectivity in Middle English Devotional Literature

Article excerpt

Anne Clark Bartlett, Male Authors, Female Readers: Representation and Subjectivity in Middle English Devotional Literature (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, I5). xii + 212 pp. ISBN o-80I4-3o38-o. C25.5o.

In this study, Anne Clark Bartlett addresses the paradox that while works of late medieval devotion are often regarded as misogynistic they were nevertheless widely read by women. She approaches this issue by examining some of the ways in which English devotional literature in the period 1351 530 presents positive constructions of feminine identity.

An introductory chapter sets out evidence for the expansion of female literacy in the period and explores the relationship between these readers and their texts; use is made of concepts from Althusser (interpellation), Bakhtin (heteroglossia), and Foucault (subjectification). The second chapter, on the late Middle English translations of Aelred of Rievaulx's De institutione inclusarum, shows how the translator of the version preserved in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 4z3 omits most of the Latin original's misogynistic stereotypes, inviting the text's readers instead to contemplate Christ as courtly suitor, spiritual friend and ardent spouse. The author then examines the use made of these three approaches to devotion (which she terms the discourses of courtesy, familiarity and contemplation) in a variety of texts from the period. First, she explores the ways in which representations of Christ and the female Christian as courtly hero and heroine, well known from such passages as that in Part vII of Ancrene Isse, are employed in such later devotional works as The Tretyse of Loue and Rolle's Commandment to encourage the reader to imagine herself as Christ's paramour. …

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