The Afterlives of Medieval Women
The late twentieth century saw the burgeoning of academic recuperation of the lives and writings of medieval women, a momentum that continues to gather pace, and that has, in many ways, provided hitherto unknown or unacknowledged women the promise of long and fruitful ‘afterlives’. This session therefore aims to examine – and, perhaps, problematize – such afterlives in the many forms they have taken: whether in responses to medieval women and their influence/writing in their own day; in cults that built up around their sanctity; in the networks, both synchronic and diachronic, that they generated; in later historiographical and/or fictional responses to their lives/works; or in misleading mythologies that further obfuscate and confuse. Additionally, many of the female-authored texts of the Middle Ages surviving to the present day draw upon personal – and often visionary – insight into the Christian afterlife, often allowing them to modify the eschatology of that afterlife in uniquely feminine terms. The issue of medieval women’s ‘afterlives’ therefore, continues to generate as many questions as it attempts to answer, and will form the central tenet of this session.
This session’s rationale is to debate how medieval women’s lives and writings have fared in terms of gender, time and memory, and the synchronic and diachronic responses they have induced: whether culturally, religiously, historiographically, in poetry, fiction, scholarship. It will assess the many ways in which the concept of an ‘afterlife’ has been important to the feminist recuperation of medieval women’s lives and works and the effect these feminist politics may have had on the desired task. It will also interrogate the extent to which an ‘afterlife’ – whether spiritual, familial, cultural or textual – was crucial to those women themselves, or those associated with them, in their own day, and the dangers of our seeing our own aspirations as feminists being inadvertently reflected there too.
Abstracts of up to 500 words to Liz Herbert McAvoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) by
20th September, 2013.