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History of Women Rights

011 Fierce and Fabulous Women in the Middle Ages in Their Voices

【Prerequisites】

High school students interested in learning about the Middle Ages and/or getting some basic grounding in gender and feminist studies in any field.  This is also an excellent course to prepare for college writing and the kinds of literary analyses that are performed in college classrooms. 

【Description】

Medieval women can sometimes seem like an impossible mystery. Did they even have a voice? What were their lives like? Some of them were powerful queens; others were influential mystics. Early women doctors or at least wise women worked on healing others, and early women storytellers, some of whom even wrote stories that come down to us intact. This course uses the approaches to feminist historical recovery from Women's and Gender Studies to approach the writings by and about medieval women that come down to us. Studying the Middle Ages can be a great introduction to thinking through some of the basic tensions in the history of feminist thought, between the fantasy of rescue and the work of recuperating nearly forgotten lives. Readings in this class will include some of the first writings by women in English and in England (not the same thing), as well as some male-authored representations of women (Chaucer's Wife of Bath), works authored by women (the autobiography of that irrepressible mystic, Margery Kempe), and anonymous accounts of some truly fierce female martyrs. The weak of the stomach should be warned: this is not the Middle Ages of shy maidens in castles. 

【Sample research topics】

  • "Ancrene Wisse and the letters of Abelard and Heloise: Discovering the intersections of romance and spirituality in the Middle Ages."

  • Leaving Legacies: Trota, Hildegard, and Medieval Women in Science

  • Understanding Old Age Using Metaphors

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