Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 1032
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Lees , Clare A. and Gillian R. Overing
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Power of Recall, I and II
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 34, 3 (Spring 2001): Appendix A: Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies. Conference paper presented at the Thirty-Sixth International Congress on Medieval Studies, the Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, May 3-6, 2001, Nineteenth Symposium on the Sources of A
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Charters and Diplomatics Memory Wills
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 11
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: Whose is the power of recall, and for whom'? Who is remembered and who is forgotten? How are Anglo-Saxon modes of literacy, technologies if you will, of writing and speaking, listening or hearing, implicated in narratives of memory, and what do women have to do with it'? As places - repositories - of memory, Anglo-Saxon diplomas, be they land transactions, disputes about property, or wills, are particular kinds of cultural narrative: they are, or at least they purport to be, records of past transactions, past stories, sometimes written in the present tense, and preserved for future auditors and readers. The diploma conquers death and forgetfulness, it remembers the past for the future. The will of Wulfgyth - itself a thirteenth-century record of an eleventh-century wish - makes the point nicely: "Here in this document it is made known how Wulfgyth grants after her death the things which Almighty God has allowed her to enjoy in life" (Whitelock 32; Sawyer 1535). Memory, however, is notoriously unreliable and cultural narratives may forget as much as they remem-ber: the diploma tells more stories than just one. The question of who has power over such institutions of recall - who speaks, who reads, who writes, who remembers - is a particularly pressing one where women are concerned. How women are remembered or forgotten, and what form their memories take, with all the attendant ambiguities of these questions, is inti-mately bound up with the ways in which women have access to literacy. The imbrication of the written and the oral is of course particularly profound in Anglo-Saxon diplomas and persists throughout the period, in spite of the growing purchase of the literate document on the law. In tracing the relation of the female to the oral and the literate in such documents, we perform a remember-ing of the complexities-of women's agency all too often forgotten in master narratives of the period. We try to read and to hear the variety of stories any single document can relate. In "Women in Chartered Territory," Gillian Overing examines the broad range of questions and issues that this documentary evidence can suggest, with reference to several different charters. Clare Lees reads the many stories of remembering and forgetting encoded in the disputes over one early eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon will in "Where There's a Will Is There a Woman'?" [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 Oregon (Lees);Wake Forest University (Overing)
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2001.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973