session grouped by Diane Watt (7/11/03):
Abstract paper -a:
Much of early Irish literature is littered with references to women behaving untraditionally, and even taking on masculine characteristics. The Metrical Dindshenchas, or ‘The Tradition of Placenames’, can offer insight into secular and ecclesiastical politics of the 11th and 12th centuries, as well as offering a glimpse into the reality of the situation of women at this time. The Metrical Dindshenchas possesses many poems in which women are involved. While many of these portray women in the traditional passive way, or as bearers of sovereignty, eight of these women display the qualities traditionally associated with men. However, this is viewed in the text as positive. This paper will attempt an examination of the eight poems in which these women appear and explore the possibilities for this sudden and unexplained transformation in the depiction of the women in this body of literature.
Abstract paper -b:
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the English were involved in cultural clashes, ranging from crusades in the Middle East to battles over Scotland. This paper explores how one English text juxtaposes Saracen and Scottish Others, and uses the comparison to condemn the Scots and affirm English sovereignty. Part of Beves of Hamtoun narrates the activities of the Saracen and Scottish consorts of two English barons. While the Saracen affirms her husband’s power and advances a vision of the English as deserving of homage and submission, the Scotswoman overthrows her husband and actively undermines English sovereignty. In this text, the Saracen Other involved in a clash of cultures far away from England serves both to condemn the Scottish Other involved in a clash of cultures closer to home, and to advance a radically empowering vision of England.
Abstract paper -c:
The Middle English poem the Wars of Alexander recasts its medieval audience’s concerns regarding eastern cultures back into classical antiquity, and Alexander the Great is the poem’s representative westerner. While Alexander achieves the military conquest of the east that eluded medieval Christians, he is defeated in another realm, specifically in his dealings with eastern women. I examine Alexander’s encounters with two eastern queens, and I argue that in the Wars differences between west and east are played out along lines of masculinity and femininity. Finally, I consider how the poem’s feminized critique of Alexander applies to its contemporary medieval audience.