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1 14 Women in French Studies RecentGenderBenders While there has been in recent years awealth ofcritical studies devoted to medieval subjects ofinterest to WIF readership, I have selected for review a few contributions with important ramifications for the study both of later women writers and of gendered writing. The Middle Ages may seem at first blush too remote a choice — until one remembers the often chilling effect early Church teachings had on later women writing or, indeed, on theirdepiction in literature, e.g., Paul'sproscription : "Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor " (1 Timothy 2: 1 1-14). In fact, what better choice than to go back to the earliest secular proving ground where women's aspirations to become respected authors and intelligent readers were put to the test? Into the first category ofscholarship I proposeto examine falls a group ofstudies ofthe late 12th-C. author Marie de France, the first woman who wrote secular texts in vernacular French (Anglo-Norman). These studies claim attention because they are situated at the intersection between defining female poetics and unraveling the complex relationship between orality andtextuality. Given the very small number ofwomen writing in Old French dialects and Provençal in the High Middle Ages (the trobairitz and visionary women are the only other women authors we can study before the prolific latemedieval Christine de Pisan [13637-1431]), literary scholarswith interest in gender questions have tended to devote inquiry to three related issues: The first is misogyny and patriarchal structures in medievaltexts or, much more unexpectedly, the absence thereof, since medieval authors were almost exclusively male clercs trained by the Church and thus well-versed in Patristic misogyny. The second involves comparing literary representations ofwomen and historical realities. Interesting examples ofthese two approaches are Penny Schine Gold's The Lady and the Virgin: Image, Attitude and Experience in Twelfth-Century France and Kathryn Gravdal's RavishingMaidens: WritingRape inMedievalFrench Literature andLaw. Thethird issue is the reaction of women both inside and outside these texts — i.e., diegetic female characters and the extradiegetic female audience —to the male author's construction ofthem. It is to representatives ofthis last approach that I propose to refer in the second part ofthis essay, namely, Roberta Krueger's Women Readers andthe Ideology ofGender in OldFrench VerseRomanceand E. Jane Burns' Bodytalk: When WomenSpeak in OldFrench Literature. And although Simon Gaunt, whose succinct review oftrends in feminist scholarship I paraphrasedabove (2), differentiates his own study from Krueger's and Burns' in that he more broadly addresses gender as a construct to which audiences react, I should like also to include in my remarks his important contribution: Gender and Genre in Medieval French Literature. Armstrong1 1 5 Marie de France is the name by which the author ofa late 12th-C. collection of Anglo-Norman Fables has been known since the 16th-C. literary historian Fauchet coined it from her signature ofthe text: "me numeral pur remembrance: Marie ai nun, si sui de France" (61 : 4: 1 will name myselfso asto beremembered: my name is Marie, and I am from France). Another late 12th-C. text, a collection of twelve Lais and Prologue in the Anglo-Norman Harley MS 978, also names its author as Marie: "Oëz, seignurs, ke ditMarie,/Ki en suntens pas ne s'oblie" (w. 3-4: Hear, lords, what is said by Marie, Who in her time does not forget her responsibilities). Scholars have traditionally credited the same Marie with both texts for several reasons: a similar authorial stance with respectto hernarratives andto the male writing tradition, the latter adumbrated by her concern, in both self-attributions cited above, with the way she will be received; linguistic and stylistic similarities; and, less definitively but suggestively nonetheless, the dedication ofboth texts to important figures at court (the Fables to a Count William, the Lais to a "noble King"). Scholarship at the intersection between textuality and sexuality— concerning both Marie's own identity as a woman writing texts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-5486
Print ISSN
1077-825x
Pages
pp. 114-126
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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