Female Agency in the Later Middle Ages
Thirty years ago, in her seminal book, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: the Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women, Caroline Walker Bynum proposed that the later Middle Ages witnessed the rise of the first women’s movement in Christian history. Looking within and beyond the purview of religious devotion, this panel welcomes papers that corroborate, qualify, or critique Bynum’s claim by examining medieval representations of female agency. What constitutes female agency in late medieval literature, society and culture? To what end is it exerted? How and by whom is it celebrated and/or censured? Relevant topics may include but are not limited to: female authorship; maternity; sainthood; social, political and/or religious authority; (homo/hetero)sexuality; transvestism; transgender identity. Relevant genres may include but are not limited to: poetry; narrative prose; epistolary; hagiography; medical and/or scientific treatises; mystical literature; etiquette manuals. Interdisciplinary approaches are especially welcome.