Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 3154
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Dugan , Holly
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Judith: Fictive Construct, Real Woman
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 33, 3 (Spring 2000): Paper presented at the Thirty-Fifth International Congress on Medieval Studies, The Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, May 4-7, 2000, Session 102: "Fruits of the 1999 NEH Summer Institute on Anglo-Saxon England I: Old Englsih Poetry and Lang
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Judith, Old English Poem Literature- Verse
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 10
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  • Abstract: Both in the Vulgate and the Old English poem versions, the figure of Judith serves as an archetype for human empowerment beyond the fleshly confines of gendering, in that Judith transforms female stereotype by a striking inversion which integrates in one figure all human virtues both masculine and feminine; the Old English poem highlights the transcendent theme that spiritual beauty is truth by an intensive concatenation of stunning heterodox metaphors that intensify the provocative verbal and thematic texture of the Vulgate source. The apocryphal Book of Judith is an epic in intent, a condensed parable of salvation history for the Jewish nation, modernly thought to be unhistorical in literal plot. In the Vulgate version, the daring theme of female hero as savior presumably shows that God's way is not man's way (generic sense). This radical fiction transmuted a wily sex-object stereotype into fierce enforcer, a Cinderella and Wonder Woman in one. It became increasingly into modem times, as Margarita Stocker extensively shows, a locus of feminist expression and a focus of controversy regarding the proper and also the changing role of women in society (i.e., God's way is not "man's" way, one might still muse). Notwithstanding received critical opinion, in the Old English poem (not much invoked by Stocker) Judith is not simply chastity triumphant. The poem seems precocious by emphasizing the intellectual faculty in a female personage, in addition to the emphatic power-motif given over into the hands of a woman (as vessel of divine will); the Old English poet does not shrink back from these seeming unorthodoxies but insists upon them as evidenced by a variety of stunning kennings, unique to this poem, that linguistically emblematize the dramatic power of an eternally evocative theme and a multidimensional hero. [Reproduced by permission of the editor Robert L. Schichler and the editors of the Old English Newsletter.]
  • Author's Affiliation: George Washington University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2000.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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