Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Previous Translations of the Month

June 2022

The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary. By Michael Lapidge. Oxford University Press, 2018. ISBN 9780198811367 (print); 0191848395 (online). Available with a subscription from Oxford Scholarship Online

Mosaic of St Agnes, 7th c., Italian, Rome, Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura (Source: flickr, Richard Mortel, CC 2.0 Generic).

"The Roman Martyrs contains translations of forty Latin passiones of saints who were martyred in Rome or its near environs, during the period before the "peace of the Church" (c. 312). Some of the Roman martyrs are universally known-SS. Agnes, Sebastian or Laurence, for example-but others are scarcely recognized outside the ecclesiastical landscape of Rome itself. Each of the translated passiones is accompanied by an individual introduction and commentary; the translations are preceded by an Introduction which describes the principal features of this little-known genre of Christian literature, and are followed by five Appendices which present translated texts which are essential for understanding the cult of Roman martyrs.

This volume offers the first collection of the Roman passiones martyrum translated into a modern language. They were mostly composed during the period 425-675, by anonymous authors who were presumably clerics of the Roman churches or cemeteries which housed the martyrs' remains. It is clear that they were composed in response to the explosion of pilgrim traffic to martyrial shrines from the late fourth century onwards, at a time when authentic records (protocols) of their trials and executions had long since vanished, and the authors of the passiones were obliged to imagine the circumstances in which martyrs were tried and executed. The passiones are works of fiction; and because they abound in ludicrous errors of chronology, they have been largely ignored by historians of the early Church. Although they cannot be used as evidence for the original martyrdoms, they nevertheless allow a fascinating glimpse of the concerns which animated Christians during the period in question: for example, the preservation of virginity, or the ever-present threat posed by pagan practices. As certain aspects of Roman life will have changed little between the second century and the fifth, the passiones shed valuable light on many aspects of Roman society, not least the nature of a trial before an urban prefect, and the horrendous tortures which were a central feature of such trials. The passiones are an indispensable resource for understanding the topography of late antique Rome and its environs, as they characteristically contain detailed reference to the places where the martyrs were tried, executed, and buried."— [Reproduced from the publisher's website]

May 2022

"Nítíða saga Text and Translation." Edited and translated by Sheryl McDonald Werronen. Popular Romance in Iceland: The Women, Worldviews, and Manuscript Witnesses of Nítíða saga. Amsterdam University Press, 2016. ISBN 9789089647955 (print). Available with a subscription from JSTOR books, Cambridge University Press and Walter de Gruyter.

Queen chess piece, 13th c., Scandinavian, whale ivory, Metropolitan Museum, Pfeiffer Fund, 2012.346 (Source: Metropolitan Museum, public domain). Currently on view in Gallery 307.

"A late medieval Icelandic romance about the 'maiden-king' of France, Nítíða saga generated interest in its day and grew in popularity in post-Reformation Iceland, yet until now it has not received the comprehensive scholarly analysis that it much deserves. Analysing this saga from a variety of perspectives, this book sheds light on the manner in which Nítíða saga explores and negotiates the romance genre from an Icelandic perspective, showcasing this exciting saga's strong female characters, worldviews, and long manuscript tradition. Beginning with Nítíða saga's manuscript context, including its reception and transformation in early modern Iceland, this study also discusses how Nítíða saga was influenced by, and also later influenced, other Icelandic romances. Considering the text as literature, discussion of its unusual depiction of world geography, as well as the various characters and their relationships, provides insights into medieval Icelanders' ideas about themselves and the world they lived in, including questions about Icelandic identity, gender, female solidarity, and the literary genre of romance itself. The book also includes a newly revised reading edition and translation of Nítíða saga."— [Reproduced from the publisher's website]

April 2022

The Life of Saint Eufrosine: In Old French verse, with English Translation. Edited and translated by Amy V. Ogden. Texts and Translations series. Modern Language Association of America, 2021. ISBN 9781603295055 (print).

Fauvel Master, Esmarade declares themself to be a eunuch and receives a monk's robe, 1327, French, The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 71 A 24, fol. 61v (Source: Koninklijke Bibliotheek, public domain).

" As a young woman from a wealthy family, Eufrosine was expected to marry a nobleman. Instead, she wanted to serve God. So she cut her hair, dressed as a man, and traveled to a monastery, becoming a monk named Emerald.
Adapted from a Latin source, this saint's life dates to about 1200 CE. Devout yet erotic, lyrical yet didactic, it blends hagiography with romance and epic in order to engage and inspire a broad audience. The tale invites readers to rethink preconceived notions of the Middle Ages, the relation between spiritual and secular values, and ideas about the history of sexuality, identity, and family.
Only fragments of the poem have been previously translated. This edition includes the first full translation alongside the Old French original as well as a glossary and other supporting material."— [Reproduced from the publisher's website]

March 2022

Education of Nuns, Feast of Fools, Letters of Love: Medieval Religious Life in Twelfth-Century Lyric Anthologies from Regensburg, Ripoll, and Chartres. Translated and edited by David A. Traill and Justin Haynes. Dallas Medieval Texts and Translations, 26. Peeters, 2021. ISBN 9789042945944 (print) and 9789042945951 (online). Available with a subscription from JSTOR.

Nuns dining in silence while listening to a Bible reading
Pietro Lorenzetti, The Abbess Umilta reading to her nuns while they eat, ca. 1335-40, Italian, Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain). Feminae image record.

These three anthologies are all relatively unknown, particularly in the English-speaking world, outside of professional medieval Latinist circles. Though excerpts from the Regensburg and Ripoll poems have been published in English translation, only the Ripoll poems have been translated completely, and only into Spanish and French. Making these anthologies available in a bilingual edition with commentary will make the insight they provide into several aspects of medieval life accessible to medieval historians as well as the more general public.

The Regensburg poems take the form of epistolary exchanges in Leonine hexameters, mainly between a male teacher and his female students, who appear to have been nuns. Some of the sixty-eight short poems imply an erotic relationship between teacher and student. The poems afford us rare glimpses into the education of women at this time. The Ripoll poems are a collection of twenty love poems, probably written in Lorraine around 1150 and copied in Ripoll. All twenty poems were written by a single unknown poet, except for one, a misogynistic poem also found in other manuscripts. The Chartres poems comprise seven performed at the post-Christmas festivities in Chartres around 1180, when the world was turned upside down in a carnivalesque suspension of the normal social order. This collection offers unique insight into the kind of poems performed during these “feasts of fools”. The last four poems are by two of the most famous medieval Latin poets, Walter of Châtillon and Peter of Blois, the canonist. " — [Reproduced from the publisher's website]

February 2022

Christine de Pizan. The God of Love's Letter and The Tale of the Rose: A Bilingual Edition. Edited and translated by Thelma S. Fenster and Christine Reno. With Jean Gerson. A Poem on Man and Woman. Translated by Thomas O'Donnell. Iter Press, 2021. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series, 79. ISBN 9781649590060 (print) and 9781649590077 (online)

The God of Love presents a letter to a messenger
The God of Love presents a letter to a messenger, Christine de Pizan, Epistre au dieu d'amours, ca. 1410-1414, French, British Library, Harley MS 4431, fol. 51r (Source: British Library, Public domain).

"Christine de Pizan was born in Italy and moved to the French court of Charles V when she was four years old. She led a life of learning, stimulated by her reading and by her drive to engage with the cultural and political issues of her day. As a young widow she sought to support her family through writing, and she broke new ground by pursuing a life as an author and self-publisher, producing an astonishingly large and varied body of work. Her books, owned and read by some of the most important figures of her day, addressed politics, philosophy, government, ethics, the conduct of war, autobiography and biography, and religious subjects.

The God of Love's Letter (1399), Christine de Pizan's first defense of women, is arguably her most succinct statement about gender. It also rebukes the thirteenth-century Romance of the Rose and anticipates Christine's City of Ladies. The Tale of the Rose (1402) responds to the growth in chivalric orders for the defense of women by arguing that women, not men, should choose members of the “Order of the Rose.” Both poems are freshly edited here from their earliest manuscripts and each is newly translated into English." — [Reproduced from the publisher's website]

January 2022

The Life of Christina of Hane. Translated by Racha Kirakosian. Yale University Press, 2020. ISBN 9780300250992. Available with a subscription on JSTOR

A nun and monk with the Virgin Mary
The nun Guta and the monk Sintram with the Virgin Mary, 1154, Alsatian, Strasbourg, Bibliotheque du Grand Seminaire, Cod. 37, fol. 4 (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain). Both Guta and Christina of Hane lived in women's monasteries which followed the Augustinian rule.

"When one thinks of medieval mystics, names such as Julian of Norwich, Gertrude the Great, and Meister Eckhart come to mind. The thirteenth-century mystic Christina of Hane led an extraordinary life, but her recently unearthed case remains to be discovered in the English-speaking world. Christina's visions hark back to a monastic tradition of ascetic practices; at the same time, her life is unusual in many ways. Her vaginal self-mutilation, her competition with the Virgin Mary as queen of heaven and blessed mother, and her potentially heretical statements about her soul's union with Christ are but a few peculiarities worth highlighting. This remarkable work shines new light on convent life, spiritual practices, and physical and mental suffering in the life of a medieval woman and the community in which she lived." — [Reproduced from the publisher's website]

Ikone der Heiligen Eudokia, Einlegearbeit in Stein und Elfenbein, 10. Jh.Indexers select a translation each month that is significant in the ideas it presents.  This gives users an opportunity to see a range of newly translated medieval works of importance for women’s and gender studies.  It also will build an archive of references to translations that will be useful as classroom readings.

Depending upon the content, an entire work may be indexed as a single title like the vita of a saint or the collected cartularies of a countess.  But in many cases the translation deals only in part with issues involving women and gender.  In those instances, indexing goes to a deeper level, identifying and describing specific sections within a text.  For example, there are 93 records for pertinent sections in the Siete Partidas.

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There are currently over 1800 records for translations in Feminae.  There are also over 300 records for editions in original languages.

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