After Eve: Medieval Women

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

It all began with Eve, so that’s where we start: with Genesis and the elaboration of Eve and the Virgin Mary as the central female figures of medieval belief. We will go on to read texts both by and about women from the earliest years of the Middle Ages up to the 15th century in order to explore the many roles that women played in medieval culture. Misogyny and adoration will be attitudes familiar to anyone who has even a cursory acquaintance with the Middle Ages. But any account of medieval women should also include norm-defiers like the Valkyries of Norse legend, the professional writer Christine de Pizan, the cross-dressed St. Joan of Arc, and various female experts on love—fleshly, courtly, and mystical. These and additional figures from the period will form the focus of the course, with contexts for our texts provided by readings in history and both cultural and literary criticism. No previous knowledge of the medieval period is necessary, though it is welcome. Conference work may be undertaken either in subjects broadly related to the course or in a quite unrelated topic, depending on the student’s interests and needs.