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REVIEWS makes some sense out of the wearying profusion of sexual images in Matthew of Vendome's Ars versificatoria. Barrie Ruth Straus searches cunningly in Chaucer's Parliament and Knight's Tale and in Margery Kempe for the suppressed voice of women's desires. These branches do indeed flower. MARK D. JORDAN Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame JOHN CARMI PARSONS and BONNIE WHEELER, eds. Medieval Mothering. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities. The New Middle Ages Series, vol. 3. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1996. Pp. xvii, 384. $60.00. The title of this volume has been very carefully chosen, for it is not just about mothers in the literal sense, as the editors stress in their intro­ duction, but also about "nurturant behavior" (p. xv). The book begins with a challenge from the editors to the stereotypical images of moth­ erhood in the Middle Ages-a serene Madonna holding her baby close, or "a careless aristocrat who callously rejects her children, sending them into fosterage, monastic life, and warfare" (p. ix). They note that moth­ ering can take many forms, and can be practiced by men as well as women (though in this volume only two male examples are discussed). This collection will be of interest to medievalists in various disci­ plines, though the majority of the essays deal with religious texts and historical women. "Fiction" is rather thinly represented: Patricia Ann Quattrin sees Herzeloyde in Wolfram's Parzival as a spiritual symbol comparable to Augustine's mother; John Carmi Parsons compares the intercession of the pregnant queen in the Middle English romance Athelston with that of the historical Queen Eleanor at Calais as reported by Froissart; Allyson Newton argues for the displacement of the femi­ nine and maternal in The Clerk's Tale in favor of the masculine and pa­ ternal; and there are overlapping studies of mothers in Norse sagas by JennyJochens and Stephan Grundy. Rhetorical use of maternal images and vocabulary in religious contexts is analyzed by Susanna Greer Fein in her study of Aelred of Rievaulx's letter to his sister, and by Maud Burnett Mclnerney and Andrew Sprung in their discussions ofJulian of Norwich. 305 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER The two examples of male nurturing are both special cases. In "The Maternal Behavior of God," Pamela Sheingorn argues that Joseph was pushed into the background for much of the Middle Ages because God plays the roles of father and also of elderly husband to the young Virgin. Rosemary Drage Hale demonstrates how Joseph became a more ad­ mired and influential figure in the late Middle Ages, perhaps because of the waning of the Marian cult; in this period he is often depicted hold­ ing the babyJesus, or walking hand in hand with Him. It is a pity that there is no discussion of any other fathers or father-figures; the Knight of La Tour Landry and the Menagier of Paris are two obvious candidates. The most interesting essays in this collection focus on the scope and potential (or limitations) of women's maternal roles. One of the most striking is Felice Lifshitz's "Is Mother Superior?: Towards a History of Feminine Amtscharisma," in which she discusses various monastic rules and uses the convent of Niedermiinster in the tenth and eleventh centuries as a case study. She shows that monastic rules for women were defined in male terms; the abbess was rarely called mater, and was in fact a "female father." The investiture ceremony for abbesses differed sig­ nificantly from that for abbots: the new abbess was not given a baculum or staff, but merely a copy of the monastic rule (p. 131): ... by virtue of the stipulations of the rule itself she is a female father who stands in the stead ofChrist; by virtue ofher ordination ceremony she is a cas­ trated father, or at least a deformed one, for she bears no staff; finally, also by virtue of her ordination ceremony, she occupies a maternal throne. Lipschitz concludes that "Mother Superior is a singularly incomplete and misleading translation of the title abbatissa" (p. 131). In discussing the secular world, a number of contributors work hard to show how caring...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 305-308
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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