HIST 2013: Gender in Medieval Europe

Course Tutor: Dr Patricia Skinner


Course Handbook

This course aims: - broadly, to introduce you to the study of gender theory as applied to medieval culture; - to familiarise you with the development of gender studies from early attempts at women's history through feminist studies to a more nuanced study of gender, and on towards a study of masculinity, transgender identities and sexualities in medieval history; - to train you in the critical use of medieval sources (in translation), and the variant readings which have been applied to them by gender historians. Assessment of the course is detailed on a separate page.

The main objective, by the end of the course, is that you will have acquired the ability to read medieval sources with a gendered lens, and to recognise and critique the historiography which does so. Gender history is a highly politicised arena, particularly medieval gender history, and the course will have wider outcomes in demonstrating more clearly than usual to you that little historical writing is 'neutral' or 'objective'.

Course Programme and Reading

The course will consist of one lecture (Tuesdays, 11.55, room 1143), one tutorial (in small groups in my room, to be arranged at the first lecture), and one whole-class seminar (Wednesdays, 11.00, room 2117) per week. Attendance at the tutorial and seminar are mandatory, and failure to attend without good reason may lead to your exclusion from the course.

Two key source-books will be used: Emilie Amt, Women's Lives in Medieval Europe (Routledge, 1993), and Caroline Larrington, Women and Writing in Medieval Europe (Routledge, 1995). Merry Wiesner, Gender in History (Blackwell, 2001) will be used as a core textbook. Pauline Stafford and Anneke Mulder-Bakker, eds, Gendering the Middle Ages (Blackwell, 2001), will be frequently referred to. It is expected that you complete all the key reading listed under each week's topic; further reading and suggested essay titles are contained in the separate, essay list now available.

Summary Course Programme

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Useful Web-based Resources

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is a major resource including a good section on women, although beware of links to Millersville, which no longer seem to work! The Labyrinth is another major online resource for medieval history and literature. During this course you will be asked to identify your own source materials for some seminars and tutorials: the course textbooks and these two resources are obvious starting points.

Course Programme and Bibliography

Each week's theme will be reviewed in the following week's Monday seminar. Items marked SL are currently only available in my Avenue Short Loan tutor boxes under the course code HIST 2013. Copies of other items of key reading which are available elsewhere in the library will be added gradually as the course progresses.

Week 1 Introduction - why gender?

Lecture 1: Why do we need to 'gender' medieval Europe? Key reading: Joan Kelly, 'Did women have a Renaissance?', in her book Women, History and Theory (Chicago, 1984) [essay first published in 1977]SL.

Seminar 1: Labels and Identities In this seminar we compare a wide range of medieval texts, and decide how they might be used for the different types of medieval history-writing outlined in lecture 1. Key reading: Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Gender in History (Oxford, 2001), Introduction.

Tutorials: Different types of medieval source: how can they be gendered? (Readings will be distributed in Lecture 1.)

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Week 2 Early work on medieval women

Lecture 2: Early work on medieval women

Seminar 2: Writing a history of women and writing women's history: what roles for women did early authors identify? Key reading: Eileen Power, 'The position of women in the middle ages', in C. G. Crump and E. F. Jacob, eds, The Legacy of the Middle Ages (1926), M. K. Dale, 'The London silkwomen of the 15th century', Economic History Review, 1st series, 4 (1933), reprinted with preceding commentary by M. Kowaleski and J. Bennett, 'Crafts, guilds and women in the middle ages: fifty years after Marian K. Dale', in J. Bennett et al., eds, Sisters and Workers in the Middle Ages (Chicago, 1989), pp. 11-38; Georgina Buckler, Anna Comnena: a Study (Oxford, 1929, repr. 2000), pp. 3-10 and 27-61SL

Tutorials: History of women and women's history: what's the difference? We compare the texts studied in the tutorials with a recent, excellent piece of women's history-writing. Key reading: Julia H. M. Smith, 'Did women have a transformation of the Roman world?' Gender and History, 12 (2000), 552-71 [reprinted in Stafford and Mulder-Bakker, Gendering the Middle Ages].

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Week 3 Norms and exceptions: the problem of 'great women'

Lecture 3: Norms and exceptions: the problem of 'great women'

Seminar: Norms and exceptions: Anglo-Saxon England as a case study (Readings will be distributed in Lecture 3) [Group 1: legal material pre 1000; Group 2: laws post 1000; Group 3: Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]

Tutorials: How are women recorded in medieval sources? Are they always 'great women'? Key reading: Wiesner-Hanks, 'Ideas, Ideals, Norms and Laws' and 'Religion', in Gender in History; Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, 'The medievalist: women and the serial approach', in Michelle Perrot, ed., Writing Women's History (Oxford 1992), pp. 25-33.

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Week 4 Feminism and the rediscovery of medieval women

Lecture 4: Identifying 'patriarchy' Key readings: Joan Kelly, 'Early feminist theory and the querelle des femmes, 1400-1789', Signs, 8 (1982), reprinted in fuller version in her Women History and Theory (Chicago, 1984)SL; E. Fox-Genovese, 'Placing women's history in history', New Left Review, 133 (May/June 1982)

Seminar 4: Applying patriarchy: Lerner and Bennett critique medieval culture Key readings: Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (Oxford, 1986), chapter 11; Judith Bennett, 'Feminism and history', Gender and History, 1 (1989), 251-272; Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness from the Middle Ages to 1870 (1993), chapter 1; Judith Bennett, 'Theoretical issues: confronting continuity', Journal of Women's History, 9 (1997), 73-94.

Tutorials: Illustrating patriarchy. Using the features outlined in this week's lecture, you will be asked to find a short medieval text which embodies one or more of these features. You will find a list of sourcebooks and websites to use at the bottom of the essay page.

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Week 5 Giving her a voice: reading medieval women authors

Lecture 5: What is a 'woman author' in medieval Europe? Key reading: Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness from the Middle Ages to 1870 (Oxford, 1993), chapters 2 and 3; Wiesner-Hanks, 'Education and culture', in Gender in History.

Seminar 5: Women's writing: a stage in the life-cycle? Key Reading: Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker, 'The metamorphosis of woman: transmission of knowledge and the problems of gender', Gender and History, 12 (2000), 642-664 [reprinted in Stafford and Mulder-Bakker, eds, Gendering the Middle Ages]

Tutorial: Gaining access to written culture Another source hunt: find a short excerpt by a woman, and come prepared to discuss how she might have been able to leave her voice to posterity. Group 1: pre 900; group 2: 900-1200; group 3: post-1200. You will find a list of sourcebooks and websites to use at the bottom of the essay page.

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Week 6 Refining the models: the emergence of gender history

Lecture 6: Women's history to gender history: origins and debates Key readings: Introduction to Gender and History, volume 1 (handout); Judith Bennett, 'Medievalism and feminism', Speculum, 68 (1993), 309-331; Arlette Farge, 'Method and effects of women's history', in Michelle Perrot, ed., Writing Women's History (Oxford, 1992), pp. 10-24.

Seminar 6 Women's history and gender history: is there a recognisable difference? Key readings: Gisela Bock, 'Women's history and gender history: aspects of an international debate', Gender and History, 1 (1989); Pauline Stafford and Anneke Mulder-Bakker, eds, Gendering the Middle Ages (Oxford, 2001), Introduction (= Gender and History, 12 no. 3, 2000)

Tutorials: Working with a source you have already met, how can you read it in a gendered way?

Week 7 Reading and essay consultation week: please sign up for an individual consultation on my door

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Week 8 Redressing the balance? medieval masculinity

Lecture 7 What is medieval masculinity? Key reading: Clare A. Lees, ed., Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in Medieval Europe (1994), preface and introduction; Wiesner-Hanks, 'Political life', in Gender in History

Seminar 7 Masculinity in action: the problems of being a man in the middle ages. Key reading: Asser's Life of Alfred in Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge, eds, Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and other Contemporary Sources (London, 1983); J. L. Nelson, ‘Monks, secular men and masculinity' (on Alfred and other aristocratic young men), in D. M. Hadley (ed), Masculinity in Medieval Europe (London, 1999), 121-142; Peter Abelard, ‘Historia calamitatum', in The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, tr. Betty Radice (London, 1974); also in the Internet Medieval Sourcebook http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html under Intellectual Life; Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler, eds, Becoming Male in the Middle Ages (New York, 2000), chapters by Wheeler and Ferroul; Michael T. Clanchy, Abelard, a Medieval Life (1997); Gregorio Dati's Diary, excerpted in Patrick Geary, Readings in Medieval History (distributed as handout); Susan Mosher Stuard, ‘The burdens of matrimony: husbanding and gender in medieval Italy', in Clare A. Lees, ed., Medieval Masculinities (Minneapolis, 1994), 61-71.

Tutorials: Masculine roles, masculine materials - find other examples of men who did not live up to the expectations of their gender and/or class. You will find a list of sourcebooks and websites to use at the bottom of the essay page.

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Week 9 Beyond the binary divide: virgins, clerics, eunuchs and cross-dressing

Lecture 8: The binary divide and challenges to it Key reading: Allen J. Frantzen, 'When women aren't enough', Speculum, 68 (1993), 445-471.

Seminar 8: Third sex or third gender? Key reading: Wiesner-Hanks, 'Sexuality', in Gender in History; Nancy F. Partner, 'No sex, no gender', Speculum, 68 (1993), 419-443.

Tutorials: Ambiguous persons Group 1 Eunuchs: Shaun Tougher, 'Images of effeminate men: the case of Byzantine eunuchs', in D. M. Hadley, ed., Masculinity in Medieval Europe (London, 1999), 89-100; Group 2 Clergy: Robert Swanson, 'Angels incarnate: clergy and masculinity from Gregorian reform to Reformation', in D. M. Hadley, ed., Masculinity in Medieval Europe (London, 1999)]

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Week 10 Challenging the heterosexual paradigm: queering the middle ages

Lecture 9: Where did the queer middle ages come from?

Seminar 9: Reactions to a gay middle ages Key readings: Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus and George Chauncey, eds, Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past (New York, 1989), Introduction and chapter by John Boswell, 'Revolutions, universals and sexual categories'; Hadley, ed., Masculinity in Medieval Europe, chapters by Ailes and Haseldine; F. Canadé Sautman and Pamela Sheingorn, eds, Same-Sex Love and Desire among Women in the Middle Ages (London, 2001), Introduction.

Tutorials: Another source hunt, this time on the LGBT section of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook: bring a source to class and discuss why you think it has been categorised as evidence of the gay, lesbian, bi- or trans-sexual Middle Ages

Week 11 REVISION CLASS TUESDAY, ESSAY SURGERY WEDNESDAY, REVISION IN TUTORIALS. This week should be used to review your notes and sort out any questions you may have. Essay surgery will be by sign-up on my door.


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This website is maintained by Trish Skinner. Please email any comments and suggestions to P.Skinner@soton.ac.uk