Women and Power in the Middle Ages / Edition 1

Women and Power in the Middle Ages / Edition 1

by Mary Erler
Pub. Date:
University of Georgia Press


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Women and Power in the Middle Ages / Edition 1

Power in medieval society has traditionally been ascribed to figures of public authority—violent knights and conflicting sovereigns who altered the surface of civic life through the exercise of law and force. The wives and consorts of these powerful men have generally been viewed as decorative attendants, while common women were presumed to have had no power or consequence.

Reassessing the conventional definition of power that has shaped such portrayals, Women and Power in the Middle Ages reveals the varied manifestations of female power in the medieval household and community—from the cultural power wielded by the wives of Venetian patriarchs to the economic power of English peasant women and the religious power of female saints. Among the specific topics addresses are Griselda's manipulation of silence as power in Chaucer's "The Clerk's Tale"; the extensive networks of influence devised by Lady Honor Lisle; and the role of medieval women book owners as arbiters of lay piety and ambassadors of culture. In every case, the essays seek to transcend simple polarities of public and private, male and female, in order to provide a more realistic analysis of the workings of power in feudal society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900820323816
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Publication date: 08/17/2004
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

MARY ERLER is a professor of English at Fordham University. Her books includeRecords of Early English Drama: Ecclesiastical London and Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England.

MARYANNE KOWALESKI, who also teaches at Fordham, is the Joseph Fitzpatrick S.J. Distinguished Professor and Director of Medieval Studies. Her books include Local Markets and Regional Trade in Medieval Exeter and Medieval Towns: A Reader.

Table of Contents

Public Power and Authority in the Medieval English Countryside18
Citizenship and Gender: Women's Political Status in Northern Medieval Cities37
Women, Seals, and Power in Medieval France, 1150-135061
The Power of Women Through the Family in Medieval Europe, 500-110083
Female Sanctity: Public and Private Roles, ca. 500-1100102
The Power of Love: Wives and Husbands in Late Medieval Venice126
Medieval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambassadors of Culture149
Lady Honor Lisle's Networks of Influence188
Public Postures and Private Maneuvers: Roles Medieval Women Play213
The Powers of Silence: The Case of the Clerk's Griselda230
The Power of Sisterhood: Marie de France's "Le Fresne"250

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Women and Power in the Middle Ages 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BrianGriffith More than 1 year ago
A good in-depth look at how women got on in the Middle Ages. Erler and Kowaleski's contributors paint fine portraits of strong, active women, who faced growing demands for male control of society. The researchers show an eventful age, full of dramatic struggles -- far from the common image of a static traditional "dark age". Only very slowly and with enormous difficulty were women were stripped of rights and powers. And the age of male control was quite temporary, as Western women launched endless initiatives to reassert their authority step by step. The book closes with hopeful signs, which brought the Middle Ages to a close. For example, it shows the primary role of women in a movement for education of both sexes. When these women taught, they did it in their vernacular languages. And partly due to their growing influence, Latin declined as the language of learning. --author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization