IMC 2008: Sessions

Session 1620: Writing the Natural World, III: Conflicted Female Figures

Thursday 10 July 2008, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Cordula Böcking-Politis, Department of Germanic Studies, Trinity College Dublin
Paper 1620-aFemale Voices and Nature Imagery in Old English Poetry
(Language: English)
Judith Kaup, Englisches Seminar, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Old English, Women's Studies
Paper 1620-bAgainst Nature: Medea and the Natural World in Medieval Texts
(Language: English)
Katherine Heavey, University of Glasgow
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Middle English, Women's Studies
Paper 1620-c'Wild Females' and Sirens between Text and Illustration
(Language: Deutsch)
Simone Schultz-Balluff, Germanistisches Institut, Lehrstuhl Altgermanistik I, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Index terms: Art History - Painting, Gender Studies, Language and Literature - German, Manuscripts and Palaeography

Paper -a:
In my paper I will look at two Old English poems, The Wife’s Lament and Wulf and Eadwacer. These poems constitute a subgroup of the elegies, as the speaker in both can clearly be identified as female. I will focus on the nature imagery employed and discuss how images from the natural world serve to illustrate the emotional state of the speakers as well as their position within society. An analysis of the similarities and differences with the other Old English elegies will furthermore serve to establish whether the female speaker’s relationship with the natural world differs from a male’s.
Paper -b:
This paper looks at the twofold uses of the natural world in relation to the medieval story of Medea, as it is represented by Benoît de Sainte-Maure, Guido delle Colonne, Gower, Lydgate, and others. Natural imagery is used as a familiar romance trope to render Medea passive, to characterise her, and categorise her, in an instantly recognisable way. At the same time, and paradoxically, Nature is a potent force that Medea’s magical powers allow her to control. Thus, the ways these authors use natural imagery in their retellings of Medea’s story epitomise the troubling conflicts so inherent in her representation.
Paper -c:
In medieval epic poetry we can find a diversity of females living outside the courtly world belonging to the wilderness: ‘wild females’, sirens etc. are part of an exotic and different world. Mainly the text describes the faszination of the wilderness and its inhabitants, but also picture cycles present these creatures. The illuminated manuscripts of the love and adventure story Apollonius von Tyrland (text: about 1300; illuminated manuscripts: 1420, 1467) show the difference clearly: while the text emphasizes female and erotic attributes, the illustrations often present the opposite.
In my lecture I will document and value the relationship between the literary and the pictorial depiction of female protagonists belonging to the natural world’ in medieval epic poetry.