Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 9327
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Hinchberger , Lara L.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Reading Rebellion: Gendering the Revolt of Liudolf of Swabia in Tenth-Century German Histories
  • Source: Gender and Conflict in the Middle Ages. Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, York, January 5-7 2001.. 2001.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Gender Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, Dramatist Liudolf, Duke of Swabia, Son of Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor Revolts
  • Geographic Area: Germany
  • Century: 10
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  • Abstract: In the early 950s, Liudolf, eldest legitimate son of Emperor Otto I and his first wife, led an extended and vigourous rebellion against his father and his uncle, Henry of Bavaria. The psychological background for Liudolf's revolt are variously assessed in the writings of his contemporaries, and the playing out of its final stages are described from different perspectives and evince particular allegiances. This traumatic episode in the reign of the first Saxon Emperor, who had previously faced two rebellions involving his brother Henry, is treated at some length in the Saxon history of Widukind of Corvey, the "Chronicon" of the Continuator of Regino of Prum, and Ruotger's "Vita" of Archbishop Bruno of Cologne (younger brother to Otto and Henry). We also have the beginning of a verse description of the episode in the "Gesta Ottonis" of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, the only woman known to have written a narrative history in the period. Her text is sadly missing large segments, one of which apparently focussed on Liudolf, but we do have Hrotsvit's perception of the psychological and emotional impetus for Liudolf's act of anti-pietas. All of these authors reveal deeply rooted family tensions and alliances as the web in which this drama unfolded, but each explains it rather differently. For Ruotger, a cathedral canon, his hero Bruno is the peace-maker between father and son, and achieves his end through a rhetorically charged harangue on the nature of filial piety and paternal love. The family tree upon which Ruotger leans his argument is one from which the distaff branches are entirely absent. Widukind and the Continuator complicate such a view with references to deep fissures in the relationship between Liudolf and Henry, who, Widukind says, despised his nephew precisely because the younger man had been deprived of the valuable support ("suffragium") of his mother. The fact that some sources report that Henry had been strongly favoured by his own mother to succeed in place of his elder brother Otto lends nuance to the stand-off between the two rebellious relatives. Finally, Hrotsvit also emphasises the significance of Liudolf's loss of his mother at age 16, and suggests that his rebellion was an attempt to forestall a loss of his position as designated heir to a child of his father's second marriage. The paper will discuss these narratives with a view to answering questions which include: How do these family tensions play against each other? What do the texts tell us about the gendered interpretation of loss, anger, rebellion and violence in Ottonian Saxony? Does Hrotsvit, a "cloistered" female author, present concerns which differ from those of the male authors? Or might the narratives be more informatively discussed with respect to an institutional-political schema, in which Widukind and Hrotsvit represent the "conservative" culture of the old Saxon Imperial monasteries, with their ancient interdependant relationships with the royal family (men and women alike), while Ruotger functioned in the context of the worldly episcopal court of Cologne, that "nursery" for the bishops who would play a newly important role in the governance of the Empire of the 11th century? [Reprinted by permission of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference organizers].
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Toronto
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2001.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
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