IMC 2005: Sessions

Session 518: Textual (Ab)Uses of the Women of the Past

Tuesday 12 July 2005, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Christine E. Meek, School of Histories & Humanities, Trinity College, Dublin
Paper 518-aThe Age of the Female Martyr
(Language: English)
Stavroula Constantinou, Department of Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies, University of Cyprus, Nicosia
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Gender Studies, Hagiography
Paper 518-bMourning and Desiring the Past in Old Norse Family Sagas
(Language: English)
Carolyn B. Anderson, Department of English, University of Wyoming
Index terms: Gender Studies, Historiography - Medieval, Language and Literature - Scandinavian
Paper 518-cMorgan la Fey: Goddess Transformation Revisited
(Language: English)
Maria-Kristina Perez, Department of French, University of Cambridge
Index terms: Language and Literature - Comparative, Language and Literature - French or Occitan, Sexuality, Women's Studies

Abstract paper a) The female martyrs of Byzantine legends are very young and beautiful women with whom their torturers fall in love. Having devoted their virginity to Christ, the martyrs reject the marriages offered to them. Their tortures which follow are sexually charged. There is only one heroine who is an old woman. Nobody falls in love with her, and her tortures have no erotic connotations.
Obviously, age does matter in the literary treatment of female martyrs, whereas this is not the case with male martyrs. In the present paper the age of the female martyr and its relation to her fortunes will be examined.

Paper b) Drawing on psychoanalytic theories of melancholia illuminates the representation of violence and gender in the family sagas, where contemporary loss of power is projected onto women in the past. That past is introjected as a history of the self and community, mourning the loss of individual male power, whose destruction caused the loss of Iceland’s independence. Violent masculinity made men worthy of representation, which is a doomed attempt to recuperate the loss inherent in heroic family sagas of the Sturlung Age.

Paper c) I will examine Morgan la Fey in both Old French and Middle English sources in light of the transformation motif – from horrible crone to ravishing maiden – that plays an integral part in the Celtic King and Goddess theme and the legitimization of male sovereignty. Through the Otherworld, sexual encounters between Goddess and future King, Fairy Mistress and hero, I will explore the importance of female sexuality and return to youthful beauty to this masculine rite of passage: both an accession to power and a demonstration of virility. I will also scrutinize the different ways in which the Old French and Middle English material deal with their Celtic inheritance.