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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 601: Gender and Identity in and around Early Medieval Literature

Tuesday 4 July 2023, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:M. Wendy Hennequin, Department of Languages, Literature & Philosophy, Tennessee State University
Paper 601-aDomestic Roles and Political Influence: Judith of Bavaria as Patron in the Poetry of Ermoldus Nigellus, c. 827
(Language: English)
Carey Fleiner, Department of History, University of Winchester
Index terms: Gender Studies, Women's Studies
Paper 601-bLiminality and Self-Alienation in The Wanderer and The Wife's Lament
(Language: English)
Karin E. Olsen, Afdeling Engelse Taal en Cultuur, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Mentalities
Paper 601-c'Filium peperit nobilissima regina': Patronage, Authorship, and the Maternal Body in the Encomium Emmae Reginae
(Language: English)
Katheryne Morrissette, Department of English, University of Toronto
Index terms: Language and Literature - Latin, Politics and Diplomacy, Women's Studies

Paper -a:
Ermoldus Nigellus was a secular clerk at the court of King Pepin of Aquitaine in the first third of the 9th century who was exiled to Strasbourg around 827 - possibly due to court intrigue, possibly as an object lesson to other criminous clerics. Consequently, he wrote three poems in a bid to flatter Pepin and Pepin's father Louis the Pious, the Frankish emperor, in hopes of release of his exile: one of these was a long epic recalling Louis's deeds and Ermoldus's place at court. Networking at the Carolingian court was tricky business even when in favour: one had to navigate backstabbing, competitive peers who may have blocked Ermoldus's hopes for intercession from Louis. Consequently, Ermoldus shored up his pleas by pinning his colours to Queen Judith's mast. Not only does he address her directly at the end of his epic asking for intercession, but she also stars in several of his spectacular set pieces. This paper addresses how Ermoldus courts Judith with his appeal to her not only as an ear to the king, but also as mother of a male child who might be threatened by his older step-brothers. Judith was herself was a powerful figure at this time, and she had much influence over Louis. This talk considers the context for her (own perilous) place in the contemporary court, and how Ermoldus, in recognition of this, may well have seen support of and loyalty to Judith (and her young child)’s protection as a sure way out of exile.

Paper -b:
The two protagonists in the Old English The Wanderer and The Wife's Lament face a harsh fate: involuntarily exiled from the human community, they are forced to dwell in liminal spaces that contribute to their gradual loss of selfhood. Although this process of self-alienation varies according to the circumstances of the speakers, it does not in fact differ to the degree that one might expect. Exposed to spatial, social, and temporal liminality, the exiles' selves slowly merge with other imagined selves in both poems, resulting in a loss of individuation. In this paper, I will illustrate the similar impact of the three dimensions of liminality on the speakers' identity as well as the complexity of the disintegration of their self in a response to it.

Paper -c:
In the Encomium Emmae Reginae, the themes of authorship, authority, and genealogy converge in the entity of Emma of Normandy, also named Ælfgifu, queen to Æthelred and Cnut, mother of the heir(s) to the throne, whose physical body literalizes - and thus legitimizes - the relationships between her sons and their fathers. In this paper, I argue that the Encomium offers a model of women's authorship that is predicated not on textual composition but rather on the patron's embodied authority as Queen Mother. Though Emma did not wield the pen, she certainly wielded the coin; scholars such as Elizabeth Tyler and Pauline Stafford have shown the importance of patronage in literary history and the affinity between the roles of patron and author. The text presents Emma as the author of kings' lives, both physically through childbirth and textually by commissioning the Encomium. This model of embodied authorship underpins Emma's attempt to secure her position in the fluctuating material reality of the 11th-century Anglo-Danish court. Simultaneously, it highlights a disruptive aspect of women's authorship: rather than being relegated to the sidelines, this model of authorship positions women as the centre of embodied reality, threatening traditional patriarchal systems of authority.