The Literary Subversions of Medieval Women by Jane Chance

By Jane Chance

This examine of medieval girls as postcolonial writers defines the literary techniques of subversion during which they approved their alterity in the dominant culture. To dismantle a colonizing tradition, they made public the personal female house allotted via gender distinction: they developed 'unhomely' areas. They inverted gender roles of characters to valorize the feminine; they created trade idealized feminist societies and cultures, or utopias, via myth; and so they legitimized lady triviality the homely girl area to supply autonomy. whereas those methodologies usually overlapped in perform, they illustrate how cultures impinge on languages to create what Deleuze and Guattari have pointed out as a minor literature, in particular for ladies as dis-placed. girls writers mentioned contain Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, Hildegard of Bingen, Marie de France, Marguerite Porete, Catherine of Siena, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, and Christine de Pizan.

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The Literary Subversions of Medieval Women

This examine of medieval ladies as postcolonial writers defines the literary techniques of subversion during which they approved their alterity in the dominant culture. To dismantle a colonizing tradition, they made public the non-public female house allotted by way of gender distinction: they built 'unhomely' areas.

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A female writer could not afford to have her work dismissed by the church or court and therefore be erased, as the example of Marguerite Porete testifies. 18 LITERARY SUBVERSIONS OF MEDIEVAL WOMEN To legitimize their authority, medieval women construct such unhomely spaces within their writing to subvert an alien and colonizing public culture. To dismantle the authority of the patriarchal voice, they reincode or relabel masculinized binaries so that the female dominates the male; they invert gender roles of characters to valorize the female, or immasculated, role; they create alternate idealized feminist societies and cultures, or utopias, through fantasy; or they authorize female triviality— the unhomely female space—to provide autonomy.

36 In support of the concept of material virginity, according to the philosophic (Stoic) explanation in Ovid’s Fasti, Vesta signifies ungenerative fire, a “living flame” that does not produce or accept seeds, semen. In Stoic philosophy, fire, as one of the four elements of matter, was the only element not present in bodies, although it often acted as a catalyst. Ovid asks: cur sit virginibus, quaeris, dea culta ministris? inveniam causas hac quoque parte suas. ex Ope Iunonem memorant Cereremque creatas semine saturni, tertia Vesta fuit; utraque nupserunt, ambae peperisse feruntur, de tribus impatiens restitit una viri.

After Ælfric’s Agnes refuses to marry the son of Simpronius, the prefect of the city, because of her love for the bridegroom Christ, the prefect offers her the choice either of consecration of her virginity to the pagan goddess HROTSVIT FEMINIZING THE EARLY CHURCH 29 Vesta or sacrifice of her virginity in the house of the prostitutes. When Agnes rejects the one alternative because of its idolatry, she is stripped of her clothing and sent to the house of the prostitutes to await the coming of the prefect’s son.

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