Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 3178
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Wickham-Crowley , Kelley M
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Buried Truth: Shrouds and Female Production
  • 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, Eighteenth Symposium on the Sources of Anglo-Saxon Culture
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Embroidery Hagiography Honor Shrouds Textiles
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
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  • Abstract: The shroud is both a material, carnal veiling for the dead and a signpost that emphasizes the physical as emblem of what is buried beneath. But what is also buried and lost is the role women played in conferring and enhancing the status of the dead. While silks were imported and used as shrouds, underlays, or overlays, the significance of linen and embroidery is often overlooked as native productions of Anglo-Saxon women in this context. Linen was a fine enough fabric for the likes of Etheldreda and Guthlac to forswear wearing it in their lifetimes, yet special gifts of linen shrouds were sent to Guthlac, Cuthbert, and Edmund, among many, often before they had been translated or fully established as saints with cults. Thus the shrouds function as an extension both of the female role of recording male reputations (as seen in "tapestries" of deeds), and of the economy of gift exchange, which frequently traded, literally and figuratively, on women's productions of luxury cloths and embroideries. The gift of a shroud, recorded in Lives as the first step in affirming the dead's reputation and status, establishes women as first patrons of such notables and their legacies; their judgment affirms the worth of the dead. More, it shows women to be crucial producers in what might be called the economy of sainthood, in which wrappings become part of the trade in relics and status. Whether male or female, the status of the dead was confirmed and made visible at the hands of women. [Reproduced by permission of the editor Robert L. Schichler and the editors of the Old English Newsletter.]
  • Author's Affiliation: Georgetown University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2000.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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