Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Versions of Virginity in Late Medieval England

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Versions of Virginity in Late Medieval England

Article excerpt

Sarah Salih, Versions of Virginity in Late Medieval Idngland (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2001). ix + 278 pp. ISBN 0-85991-622-7. L45.00/175.00.

In Versions of Virginity in Late Medieval England Sarah Salih focuses on what she designates as the 'strategies of chastity', in the sense that she argues that virginity was conceived of as a performative condition or state within latemedieval culture. Employing theorists like Judith Butler to buttress what is primarily a historically oriented critical study, she argues for a 'reading' of virgins as cultural signs. Her first two chapters, which introduce her subject and attempt to construct a theory of medieval virginity, contain some interesting points but lack the focus she achieves in her subsequent chapters on the Katherine Group, on conventual life, and on The Book of Margery Kempe. These three chapters explore hagiographic modes of virginity, the symbolic practices that define 'nunnish virginity', and the dramatically conceived recuperative virginity described by Margery's actions.

In her study of the Katherine Group, Salih argues that these texts define their virgin martyrs as possessing an identity that is not female, that joins the bride to the virago, and is thus actively chosen and gloriously enjoyed. These virgins are figures 'through which perfection is read' (p. 98), spectacles meant to be observed and used by anchoresses, the audience for these lives. In her chapter on conventual virginity, Salih is also interested in understanding the ways in which the profession ceremony, the clothing, and the enclosure of late-medieval nuns served to create a virgin identity she describes as feminized and communal. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.