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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER and concludes that Shakespeare not only uses the power of language but controls it to his purpose, to make rhetoric itself a consolation, a human defense against human suffering. The final essay, Murray M. Schwartz's "Anger, Wounds, and the Forms of Theater in King Richard II: Notes for a Psychoanalytic Interpretation," like Lifson's examines Shakespeare for insights into human psychology; unlike Lifson, however, Schwartz does not require that Shakespeare recognize the significance of his verbal creations. For these reflect "deep structures," unconscious percep­ tions. Clearly this approach has an affinity with deconstruction: both look through the text rather than at it. The results are some­ times interesting, but are they literary criticism? I am not yet convinced that they are. DANIEL}. RANSOM University of Oklahoma ANGELA M. LUCAS, Women in the Middle Ages. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983. Pp. xvi, 214. $25.00. In the preface to Women in the Middle Ages, Angela Lucas limits the scope of her investigation of the status, activities, and contribu­ tions of medieval women to three areas-religion, marriage, and letters-as they are discussed, described, or implied in medieval literature. The author defines "medieval literature" in the widest possible sense and examines not only creative literature but such historical documents as wills and charters; treatises on theological, philosophical, and medical topics; and such devotional literature as sermons and homilies. Furthermore, Lucas states that her study will focus primarily on Englishwomen who lived during the Middle Ages from approximately the fifth to the fifteenth centuries, with only occasional references to women in continental Europe. As the author reminds her audience on various occasions, "Most of the information we have about women in the Middle Ages was written down by men." Many citations from a wide variety of 202 REVIEWS medieval documents throughout this work forcefully impress this fact on the reader, but nowhere more effectively than in the opening chapter, which traces the origins and the development of the anti­ feminist attitudes that generally prevailed throughout Christian medieval Europe from the patristic period to the closing of the Middle Ages and beyond. This chapter nicely ties together the three main sources of medieval antifeminist thought: the classical Greek conception of women's inferiority to men already manifest in Aris­ totle's writings; the Christian tradition of blaming Eve and her female descendants for the loss ofEden, which grew primarily out of patristic exegeses of the Book of Genesis; and Roman law, "under which a woman was a perpetual minor, subject first to father or guardian and then to her husband." As Lucas convincingly argues, by the twelfth century these traditions had produced a generally accepted and well-entrenched conviction of women's inferiority to men and provided authoritative justification for relegating women to a secondary, inferior role in all private and public affairs­ marital, social, intellectual, and religious. As the author correctly concludes, not even the cult of the paragon of all feminine virtues, the Virgin Mary, could improve or change the status of women or attitudes toward them because everyone recognized in Mary the embodiment of an ideal "unattainable by every other woman." The opening chapter of this book promises a quality of research and analysis that the rest of the work unfortunately fails to uphold. The entire text is only 184 pages long. It is difficult to do justice to a topic as demanding and inclusive as women in the Middle Ages in such limited space, but the author might have succeeded had she observed her self-imposed limitation of confining her study to Englishwomen. She does not do so, however, which presents the most persistent problem of this book. No reader could object to an occasional reference to Continental women, especially if no suitable English model could be found to demonstrate a given point. Yet this is seldom the case, and the author's insistence on discuss­ ing Continental women at length to the neglect of Englishwomen of similar or even superior accomplishments eventually becomes distracting. Extreme examples of this occur in the chapter on women and 203 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER letters. In view of Marie de France...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 202-205
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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