Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Previous Articles of the Month

July 2023

Buckle plate from a jeweled belt belonging to a Merovingian woman of high status, constructed of silver, plate glass, and garnet
Buckle plate from a jeweled belt belonging to a Merovingian woman of high status, ca. 630, Paris, Musée d'Archéologie Nationale de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, (Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 4.0) It was previously believed that the grave goods from the church of Saint Denis belonged to Queen Arégonde, wife of Clothar I, King of the Franks

Cudorge, Justine. "Women's Quarters, an Influential and Political Pole: A Study of the Frankish Inner-Court (Sixth-Seventh Century)." Royal Studies Journal 9, 1 (2022): 18-132. Available open access.

Abstract: "The question of women exercising power and influence appears to be central, if not fundamental, to gender studies, as it allows an in-depth reflection on both societal norms and the way we perceive them today. The historian's vision has been biased for a long time by a dichotomic consideration of society, with a clear gendered partition where women would have been confined to the private, domestic sphere. Their actions were thus perceived as inconsequential at best, invisible at worst, for they were perpetually limited to private quarters and familial intimacy, while men's authority and actions supposedly influenced the public sphere and politics in a larger measure. It would be a mistake, however, to keep considering that politics and familial intimacy should be studied separately. The palace environment in particular proves to be especially favorable to women's authority, for they often benefit from a specific access to the sovereign that even major dignitaries can be deprived of, seeing as they are generally not received privately by the ruling dynasty. Studying women's quarters thus brings to light a mosaic of interdependent relationships, of intercessors, factional processes, and intricate political networks. Although women can be, and often are, limited in some specific ways, such as their physical presence within the public space, they can still achieve political relevance and play a key role within the palace hierarchy and court mechanics. In other words, women are not only instrumental in displaying royal authority but can, at times, fully embody it without specifically causing a break with tradition. Merovingian private quarters in particular offer a very meaningful example, in that they are a reflection of the Merovingian matrimonial practice—polygyny. By multiplying the female pole within the palatial structure, power and authority come into play, taking various shapes and influencing many areas of the political and private life of the sovereign." — [Reproduced from the article page on the Royal Studies Journal site]

June 2023

Photo of artwork on the wall of a catacomb
Dominik Matus, Cerula framed by gospel books, late 5th- early 6th c., Naples, San Gennaro Catacombs, (Source: Wikimedia Commons, C.C. 4.0 license)

Vihervalli, Ulriika. "Wartime Rape in Late Antiquity: Consecrated Virgins and Victim Bias in the Fifth-Century West." Early Medieval Europe 30, 1 (2022): 3-19.

Abstract: "Late antique clerics rarely discussed wartime rape but singled out consecrated women as victims when they did. This emphasis testifies to the prominence of consecrated women by the fifth century, while inadvertently creating a victim bias. This paper examines this bias and puts forth a wider consideration of victims, including laywomen, children, and men. However, studies on wartime rape have shown that the rape of virgins is often treated differently from the violation of others. These findings are extended to holy virgins in late antiquity to offer new considerations of the grim success of rape as a weapon of war." — [Reproduced from the article page on the Wiley Online Library site] The article is available open access.

March 2023

A figure of a valkyrie, carved from silver.
Valkyrie figure, silver, 800-1099, Viking age, Sweden, Stockholm, History Museum (Source: Wikimedia Commons, C.C. 2.5 license)

Varnam, Laura. "Poems for the Women of Beowulf: A 'Contemporary Medieval' Project." Postmedieval 13, 1-2 (2022): 105-121.

Abstract: "This article is centred upon seven new poems from my poetry project inspired by the women of Beowulf. To contextualise the project, the poems are framed with a creative-critical reflection on their genesis in my undergraduate Beowulf class, where I teach the original poem through modern translation, adaptation, and creative response. I discuss my indebtedness to feminist scholarship on the 'overwhelmingly masculine' nature of Beowulf (Overing 1990) and briefly survey recent feminist translations and adaptations. I propose my poetry as a form of creative close reading and an example of Lees and Overing's 'contemporary medieval in practice' (Lees and Overing 2019). I also offer short notes on the poems and their relationship to questions of gender, voice, and autonomy." — [Reproduced from the article page in Springer Link]

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