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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER sexuality, become inextricable from sidereal desire, celestial sexuality’’ (pp. xv–xvi). Ahistorical misreading or stimulating postmodern counterreading ? Cohen does not mention that he is reversing the medieval conception of the ‘‘zodiac man’’: with regard to student readers, his omission is unfortunate, but it does clear a ground zero for rethinking the figure. Readers may then recall for themselves the standard meanings for a given medieval exemplar, try out the disorientation of Cohen’s contrary reading, and assess the deconstructive possibility that the conventional interpretation invites its own inversion. The lines of influence from cosmos to human body, centrifugal as they look to medieval science , do trace potentially centripetal tracks of dispersion. Presenting the reader with such possibilities to ponder is the consistent strategy of Cohen ’s study. Susan Crane Columbia University Carolyn Dinshaw and David Wallace, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women’s Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. xx, 289. $60.00 cloth, $22.00 paper. This addition to the Cambridge Companion series broadly construes medieval women’s relationship to writing. In so doing, it follows the lead of a number of recent studies that have emphasized historical and textual circumstances attending the emergence of the woman writer and women’s writings in the Middle Ages, and have investigated the cultural systems and institutions that were enabling sites of textual production by and for women. Hence, this book’s conception of medieval women’s writing not only addresses the individual females, celebrated and anonymous , who were directly engaged in the making of texts but also examines the social and spiritual conditions and gendered states that necessarily framed medieval women’s intersections with textual culture —as authors and readers, patrons and collaborators, agents and subjects of representation. The book is divided into three parts. Part One, ‘‘Estates of Women,’’ surveys familiar categories of medieval women’s social/sexual identity, with Ruth Evans’s essay on ‘‘Virginities,’’ Dyan Elliott’s on ‘‘Marriage,’’ PAGE 300 300 ................. 11491$ CH13 11-01-10 14:02:25 PS REVIEWS and Barbara A. Hanawalt’s on ‘‘Widows.’’ ‘‘Female Childhoods’’ by Daniel T. Kline and ‘‘Between Women’’ by Karma Lochrie fill in details of that picture less frequently limned in studies of medieval women’s writing. Part Two examines ‘‘Texts and other spaces’’ in which medieval female literate practices occurred. Jennifer Summit’s ‘‘Women and Authorship ’’ proposes a broadened understanding of the term ‘‘author’’ that does not associate the concept with individual, originary acts, and then surveys social, material, and ideological conditions under which medieval women contributed to textual culture. Subsequent essays in Part Two implicitly expand on Summit’s formulation. Christopher Cannon explores the construction of the female anchoritic subject through the literature of ‘‘Enclosure,’’ a process that provides a paradigm for the ‘‘making of any self’’ (p. 119). Aptly characterizing the medieval women ’s life ‘‘At home; out of the house’’ as the life that Margery Kempe ‘‘refused’’ (p. 124), Sarah Salih analyzes the space of the household fashioned by women’s conduct texts, letters, and Kempe’s own testament to domestic resistance. Alcuin Blamires moves discussion of women’s intersections with textual culture from these private spaces to more public arenas ‘‘Beneath the pulpit,’’ where women could encounter suppression as well as opportunities for expression of their spiritual agency. Part Three, ‘‘Medieval Women,’’ rounds out the collection with more detailed portraits of specific writers and genres: Christopher Baswell on Heloise; Roberta Krueger on Marie de France; David Hult on ‘‘The Roman de la Rose, Christine de Pizan, and the querelle des femmes’’; Sarah McNamer on ‘‘Lyrics and Romances’’; Nicholas Watson on Julian of Norwich; Carolyn Dinshaw on Margery Kempe, Alexandra Barratt on ‘‘Continental women mystics and English readers’’; and Nadia Margolis on Joan of Arc. By the editors’ description, the focus of this collection is ‘‘England, viewed as part of a greater medieval Europe’’ (p. 1). Virtually all the evidence adduced to analyze the ‘‘estates’’ and ‘‘spaces’’ of medieval women’s involvement with textual and literate culture is from English sources. To cite just one example, Ruth Evans’s wide-ranging discussion employs exclusively English witnesses—in drama, devotional writing, autobiography, lyric, hagiography, romance, and letters...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 300-302
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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