Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 7002
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Simon , Anne.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Reading, Reading Women: Double-Mirroring the Dame in the German Book of the Knight of the Tower (1493)
  • 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): Human Behavior Marquard von Stein, Translator of the Buch der Ritter vom Turn (Written by the Chevalier de la Tour Landry) Readers Translation Woodcuts
  • Geographic Area: Germany
  • Century:
  • Related Resources:
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: The German Book of the Knight of the Tower is the translation of a French text, Le livre du chevalier de la Tour Landry (1371). Both original and translation were undertaken specifically for a female readership, the daughters of author and translator respectively. The text is composed of exempla of female virtue and wickedness intended as models of behaviour to be emulated or avoided by its female readership. It also sets up three models of virtuous female readers – Deborah, St Katherine of Alexandria and the Virgin Mary – as a strategy for directing women’s reading of the work and closing down both readings that go against the didactic grain and the space of manoeuvre that those readings might open. This strategy is further reinforced by author’s and translator’s prefaces and a rigid framework of exegesis of the exempla in the paternal voice. This paper will examine these strategies and their effectiveness, with the prime focus on the interaction between textual strategies and visual ones: the Ritter vom Turn is illustrated by forty-six woodcuts commonly attributed to the young Albrecht Dürer. Four will be discussed in this paper. Three, located at the beginning and end of the work and thus framing its reading and reception, depict the genesis of the text, the authorial process and, in reference to images of patronage, the Knight’s handling of the completed text to his daughters. The fourth depicts the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation scene. Mary, the model reader par excellence, is traditionally held to e reading the very passage from Isaiah which foretells the conception and birth of Christ, the moment when God’s written Word became Flesh. This woodcut figures the function of the entire work, the creation of a chaste and submissive ideal female reader who, directed by the paternal word, becomes the vessel for legitimate heirs. However, the iconography of the woodcuts, with its echoes of courtly as well as biblical traditions, is not as unambiguous as may at first sight appear and can be read on several levels, a fluidity which subverts the stated purpose of the text and leaves space for women to read text and image to suit their own needs. [Reproduced by permission of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference Organizers].
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Bristol
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
  • Material/Technique :
  • Rights: