Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 8272
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Franc , Catherine.
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  • Title: The Rejected Suitor and Rape in Hagiography: The Unusual Case of Thecla
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 34, 3 (Spring 2001): Appendix A: Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies. Conference paper presented at the International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, July 9-12, 2001, Session 801: "Re-Reading Old English I: Excluding the Other."
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne, Saint- Prosa de Virginitate- Episode on Saint Thecla Hagiography Latin Literature Literature- Prose Rape in Literature Women in Literature
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 7-8
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  • Abstract: The theme of rape is a common feature of numerous hagiographical texts. A number of scholars, such as Kathryn Gravdal, have already looked at this feature of almost all hagiographical documents relating the martyrdom of young virgins. According to the standard narrative pattern, the young maid rejects her suitor, and the promise of worldly joys and pleasures, to embrace the Christian faith, which the maiden's virginal body comes to symbolize. The threat of sexual assault is omnipresent, a tendency evident in Aldhelm's prose De Virginitate, where female saints make up an appreciable proportion of the well-known hagiographical tales with which Aldhelm illustrates his treatise. In this paper I look more particularly at the part of the treatise devoted to Saint Thecla. This oriental saint is widely cited by the Church Fathers and other medieval religious author-ities, to illustrate, for instance, virginal fortitude. Aid-helm's version of the life of this saint is surprisingly short: many essential features of the Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla are excluded, including Thecla being embraced publicly by the Syrian Alexander who lusts after the beautiful virgin. Yet, Aldhelm suggests rape, in another context, in his description of Thecla's tortures. This change raises the question not only of Aldhelm's source, but also of the significance of sexual assault on women within the treatise. 1 therefore initially consider possible sources for Aldhelm's story of Thecla, including Latin and Greek texts which could have inspired him to alter the original story. 1 proceed to discuss Aldhelm's treatment of this common hagiographical theme in the prose De birginitate. [Reproduced by permission of Robert Schicler, the “Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies” editor, and the editors of the “Old English Newsletter.”].
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Manchester
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2001.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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