Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 5412
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  • Title: Subverting Tradition: The Transformed Female in Hildegard of Bingen's Scivias
  • Source: Seeing Gender: Perspectives on Medieval Gender and Sexuality. Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, King's College, London, January 4-6, 2002.. 2002.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Art History- Painting Body Hildegard of Bingen, Abbess of Rupertsberg- Scivias Illumination of Manuscripts Women in Art
  • Geographic Area: Germany
  • Century: 12
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  • Abstract: My paper takes a close look at three images from Hildegard’s Scivias, to explore some overlooked ideas that appear in these pictures: the Fall of Adam and Eve, the “Cosmic Egg”, and Virgin Ecclesia attacked by the Antichrist. I intend to show that these images embody what we now would call a feminist perception that appears in strange juxtaposition with Christian dogma of the twelfth century. Although created by a respected member of the ecclesiastical world, Hildegard’s visions suggest an unorthodox understanding of the inferior position of women in the Church and within its doctrine. Through a close visual reading/analysis of these images, I hope to show some of the ways in which Hildegard’s imagery alludes to something other than the usual negativity of the female body, the vulva or vagina in particular. In contrast to the gross, monstrous figures like Luxuria, Eve, or the sculpted bodies of the vaguely contemporaneous Sheela-na-gigs, Hildegard’s images display a complex presentation of the female in which woman is becomes a source of life, goodness, and redemption. I will also discuss Hildegard’s images within a larger context of artwork by more recent women artists who have also struggled with the negative cultural connotations of female physicality. Hildegard’s visions provide a way to understand the female body, and in particular, its generative parts, as a site of beauty and life-giving, creative power of God on earth – notions that would have been inconceivable in her time and remain largely unaccepted in our own. [Reprinted by permission of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference Organizers].
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  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
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