Anglo-Saxon Literature (Early Medieval English Literature): Women in the Early Middle Ages

Women in the Early Middle Ages
English 4206W/7206
Johanna Kramer
Course Description

This course is dedicated to the study of women in both the literature and the history of early medieval England, covering texts produced ca. 700 to ca. 1150 C.E. In particular we will examine how religious and secular authorities shaped the lives and literary representations of early medieval Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman women. Current scholarship will supplement our knowledge of this period and provide tools for critical investigation of the literature and of women’s representations. Our readings (in translation) will be writings for and about women, such as heroic poetry featuring stunningly powerful biblical and historical female figures, saints’ lives, biblical narratives, laws, riddles, and historiography. Among possible topics of discussion are the influence of social and religious interests on the representation of women, the depiction of female saints in particularly medieval and Germanic terms, gendered sainthood, the impact of female patronage on the production of texts and thus on medieval English literary culture, and the religious education of women. The course also provides a basic historical understanding of the period by learning about the social, political, and legal status of both noble and ordinary women and the opportunities available to women to act in positions of authority or to exert political power. This is a Writing Intensive Course.