IMC 2005: Sessions

Session 807: Constructing Femininities

Tuesday 12 July 2005, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Catherine Lawless, Department of History, University of Limerick
Paper 807-aDressing up?: A Re-Examination of Interpretations of Later Medieval Cross-Dressing
(Language: English)
Rachel A. Bowen, School of History, Archaeology & Religion, Cardiff University
Index terms: Gender Studies, Historiography - Modern Scholarship
Paper 807-bVirgins at War: The Magic of Virginity in a Military Context
(Language: English)
Judith Kaup, Englisches Seminar, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universit├Ąt, Bonn
Index terms: Gender Studies, Hagiography, Sexuality, Women's Studies
Paper 807-cSex in the Desert: Women's Stories in the World of Vitas patrum
(Language: English)
Sue Ellen Holbrook, Department of English, Southern Connecticut State University
Index terms: Hagiography, Language and Literature - Middle English, Language and Literature - Latin, Women's Studies

Abstract – a: This paper reconsiders current interpretations of later medieval cross-dressing, particularly Vern Bullough’s influential arguments that female cross-dressing was tolerated, encouraged and involved gains in status. Drawing on examples both literary and actual, it argues that this was not the case and that the issues of status are more complicated than Bullough’s work implies. Building on some of Claire Sponsler’s ideas, the paper also argues that cross-dressing should be seen in a wider context than just gender cross-dressing. For example, cross-dressing could also include other crossings such as status, nationality and virginity.
Abstract – b: In this paper I propose to deal with the concept of special powers associated with the virginity of female fighters in medieval literature.
Relevant questions include the roots of this concept in the Germanic tradition and the merging of pre-Christian and Christian ideals in the evaluation of virginity. Special attention will be paid to gender aspects in the literary construction of female virginity (i.e. the pre-woman status of a virgin and the androgynous quality sometimes attributed to virgin saints). Furthermore I want to look at the development of different concepts of virginity (i.e. regained virginity through chastity).
Abstract – c: Although major women’s narratives in the vitas-patrum tradition (such as Mary Egyptian) are few, minor women’s stories are numerous. Reflecting the era and eastern provinces in which monasticism emerged, these narratives suggest the participation of women, relations between the sexes, the problem of feminine images in masculine ethos of ‘fathers’ , and the way women’s stories fulfilled the purpose of edification within this environment. Drawing upon Cassian, Palladius, and subject collections of sayings, I examine examples of three narrative types of women’s stories: measurement of perfection, disguise, and repentance. These types are not peculiar to female characters, but when told about them, the feminine sex is made to matter. The reading model of ‘recognition’ illuminates how women’s stories of these types fulfill the purpose of edification.