Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Article of the Month

Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.

October 2014

Mary of Egypt, covered in hair, receives a cloak from the monk Zosimus
Mary of Egypt, covered in hair, receives a cloak from the monk Zosimus (c. 1440-1450). France London, British Library, Yates Thompson Ms 3, f. 287r. The Dunois Hours (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Francomano, Emily C. "Taking the Gold Out of Egypt": Prostitution and the Economy of Salvation in the Vida de María Egipciaca. Hispanic Review 82, 4 (2014): 397-420

Abstract: This article explores how the thirteenth-century verse Vida de María Egipciaca portrays the sins, conversion, and spectacular penance of Mary of Egypt in terms of her rejection of and eventual entrance into orthodox economies. As I argue, hagiographic legends about prostitutes have economic subtexts and the Vida offers paradoxical visions of prostitution both as a foil and as an analogue for the financial metaphors that undergird the very economy of salvation. In the Vida prostitution, as practiced by the repentant María, not only represents sexual depravity, but also a move from economic indifference and the unregulated distribution of sexual activities to a consciousness of just prices and exchange values. The poem thus offers a striking medieval articulation of Christian salvation economy, relating the salvation economy to notions of women’s value as objects of exchange. In so doing, the Vida also interlaces the context of thirteenth-century Mediterranean economic culture with its poetics. [Reproduced from the journal page on the Project Muse website: https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/hispanic_review/.]