IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 1123: Gender and Power in Medieval Literature

Wednesday 12 July 2006, 11.15-12.45

Paper 1123-a'Ne murn ðu for ði mece': The Dynamics of Violence and Masculinity in Anglo-Saxon Literature
(Language: English)
Beth Tovey, Somerville College, University of Oxford
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Old English
Paper 1123-bAppetitive Laughter and Denial of the Body in Hrotswitha of Gandersheim's The Martyrdom of the Three Virgins
(Language: English)
Maggie Ellen Fromm, Claremont McKenna College, Claremont University Consortium
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - German
Abstract

Abstract paper -a: This paper will explore the ways in which violent action, such as fighting and torture, and its accoutrements, such as swords and shields, become a powerful way of expressing the gender and sexuality, not only of the performer of violence, but also of its victim. It will consider the specifics of the relationship between masculinity and weaponry found in wills and laws, and will move on to examine fictional accounts, for example, of saints resisting violent, sexualised torture, of the supplementation of violence with speech-acts in The Battle of Maldon and Judith, of the use of weaponry in homosocial relationships, and of divine violence, where male saints prove their loyalty to God by enduring vicious physical attacks by demons.

Abstract paper -b: This paper is part of a larger thesis, ‘Tak al my good and lat my body go’: The Convergence of Gender, Comedy, and the Body in Medieval Literature. Hrotswitha’s play is rife with what seem to be humorous repayments to men of stereotypes the medieval culture generally attributes to women: her male characters are weak, fickle, overcome by bodily passions, and petty as human beings. Her female characters, by contrast, are verbal spitfires yet not overly talkative; virtuous virgins yet not perfect Virgin Marys; powerful in their resistance to male domination yet unwilling to commit acts of violence themselves. To put it singularly, Hrotswitha reponds with brevity and humor to the medieval world’s insistence upon the relative worthlessness of women. My paper explores how Hrotswitha, by engaging in this cross-temporal, cross-spatial, and cross-lingual dialogue on gender construction, employs comedy to the fullest in order to invert the expectations of the male and female body.