IMC 2017: Sessions

Session 105: Gendered Lives

Monday 3 July 2017, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Amy Brown, University of Sydney
Paper 105-aIllness and Disease in the Anchorite's Cell
(Language: English)
Bernadine De Beaux, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide
Index terms: Archaeology - Sites, Architecture - Religious, Ecclesiastical History, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 105-bHeloise: A Modern Woman in the Middle Ages
(Language: English)
Sabina Tuzzo, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Università del Salento, Lecce
Index terms: Language and Literature - Latin, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 105-cOutstanding in Their Field: How Otherness and Liminality Wrote Christine de Pizan, Margery Kempe, and Joan of Arc
(Language: English)
Kara Maloney, Department of English, General Literature & Rhetoric, Binghamton University
Index terms: Gender Studies, Literacy and Orality, Women's Studies
Abstract

Paper -a:
Enclosed in a cell for eternity in a ‘living tomb’,Anchorites, devout recluses, lived their lives alone, separate from the world, in prayer, meditation, and self-mortification for the glory of God.

The majority of anchorite cells were attached (or ‘anchored’) to churches. However, there are some that have been recorded in churchyards, cemeteries, and in the countryside away from town or village centres. The anchorite’s previous life would cease to exist. They would be symbolically, and in some cases physically, sealed in their cell into irreversible enclosure for eternity in a ‘living tomb’, in which it was expected they would die and be interred. They were completely cut off from the world. The only true connection to the outside world was a small window in which food and supplies where received. Through this same window refuse was disposed of, people came to seek spiritual guidance and prayers from the anchorite, and the recluse’s confessor came to offer spiritual support and forgiveness of their sins.

Regardless of gender, permission was required for the anchorite to leave their cell. This was given, at times, but the reasoning and required justification differed vastly between genders. It is understood that a anchorite who did not possess such permission, ‘… who left their enclosure could be forcibly returned by the authorities, and faced damnation in the hereafter’ (Jones:2010). Male anchorites could request or be asked to pastor to the community, or be given various other religious duties, and therefore be able to leave their enclosure in order to carry out these responsibilities. This was not the case for female anchorites.

Faced with little fresh air and sun light, coldness and damp, many cells having no source of heating, and basic toilet and washing facilities, the recluse would have been left unprotected against many illnesses and disease. Although conditions within their individual cells may have been much the same for both genders, the male anchorite, with the ability to request or be given duties outside his cell, may not have been affected by as many illnesses or diseases as his female counterpart. Consequently gender surely would have influenced the health and well-being of the recluse.

This paper investigates and analyses gender related health problems and disease which anchorites may have been exposed to, due to the conditions in which they lived, and how this may have affected their daily lives and indeed contributed to their deaths.

Paper -b:
In the 12th century, the intellectually gifted young Heloise let herself be carried away with an unbridled passion for the well-known scholar Peter Abelard, twenty years her senior and her tutor in philosophy. Their passionate relationship scandalized the community in which they lived. Unwilling to submit to the inextricable shackles of the social conventions and code of love of that time, first the young pregnant lady stubbornly refused the shotgun wedding, and then took her final vows, forced by Abelard after his castration, and lived her nun’s life in lies and hypocrisy, as she will confess in her letters to him. It is perhaps the most tragic love story ever, where it is not the superiority of man over woman to bend Heloise, as rather the awareness of the superiority of the power of love, which does not want to submit to the rigid rules of conformism.

Paper -c:
This paper considers the close temporal and geographic connections between Margery Kempe, Joan of Arc, and Christine de Pizan. All three women were othered by contemporary society for their attempts to rewrite themselves outside the scope of traditional gender roles in the early 15th century. Their power was in their very otherness and because they balked at traditional gender roles. In this paper, I put their liminality into conversation and show how their examples work in concert to show the power of the individual female in England and France in the 15th century.