Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 4153
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Innes- Parker , Catherine.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Sheela-na-gigs and Other Unruly Women: Images of Land and Gender in Medieval Ireland
  • Source: From Ireland Coming: Irish Art from the Early Christian to the Late Gothic Period and Its European Context.  Edited by Colum Hourihane.  Index of Christian Art, Deparment of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University in association with Princeton University Press, 2001.  Pages 313 - 331.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Essay
  • Subject (See Also): Art History- Sculpture Historiography Imperialism Ireland Nude in Art Sheela-Na-Gigs, Carved Figures of Naked Females That Emphasize the Genitals of Naked Females That Emphasize the Genitals Women in Art
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 12- 13- 14- 15
  • Related Resources: Catherine Karkov"s "Sheela-na-gigs and Unruly Women: Images of Land and Gender in Medieval Ireland" is a lively and wide-ranging contribution on a most controversial subject. As Karkov rightly notes, the Sheela-na-Gig is very much a continental image that
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  • Table: Fourteen Figures. Figure One Acrobat figure (County Offaly, Clonmacnois, The Nuns' Church, chancel arch). Figure Two Sheela-na-gig (County Tipperary, Fethard, town wall). Figure Three Sheela-na-gig (County Offaly, found in the Figile River). Figure Four Sheela-na-gig (County Kilkenny, Ballylarkin). Figure Five Sheela-na-gig (County Cavan, Lavey). Figure Six Sheela-na-gig (County Roscommon, Rahara). Figure Seven Portal arch (Clonmacnois, Nuns' Church). Figure Eight Sheela-na-gig (County Tipperary, Kiltinane church). Figure Nine Sheela-na-gig (County Cavan). Figure Ten Sheela-na-gig (County Tipperary, Fethard Abbey). Figure Eleven Drawing of sheela-na-gig from Ballynahend, County Tipperary, from Thomas Wright, "The Worship of the Generative Powers during the Middle Ages of Western Europe." Figure Twelve Drawing of Rochestown sheela-na-gig for John Windele's "Miscellaneous Anitquarian Gleanings" (Royal Irish Academy, Ms. 12 Cl. f. 246). Figure Thirteen Daniel Maclise, "The Origin of the Harp," 1842 (Manchester City Art Gallery). Figure Fourteen "The Irish Frankenstein," "Punch," 4 November 1843.
  • Abstract: This essay has two goals: first, to explore the possible meanings and functions of sheela-na-gigs within their original medieval setting, and, second, to consider the ways in which they have been interpreted and reinterpreted in modern times. The process of creating meaning is important, as sheela-na-gigs developed out of a Continental context but have been changed over the centuries into representations of a distinctly Irish past, often set against a postcolonial present. Like the historical and fictional women with whom they are so often connected, and with whom I will continue to connect them, they refuse to be pinned down to one meaning, role, or interpretation. As Eamonn Kelly has stressed, "the process of redefinition" is ongoing.
  • Author's Affiliation: Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2001.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 0691088241
  • Material/Technique :
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