Proseminar: Women and Space in medieval England

Enseignant(s): Vuille Juliette
Cursus: Bachelor
Type d'enseignement: Proséminaire
Langue(s) du cours: Anglais
Semestre(s): SP-2023

At a time when the COVID pandemic has foregrounded the still-existing inequalities of men and women’s use of the private space (in terms of the share of domestic work and unpaid care duties), and when the public space of the supermarket still shows increased accessibility to women, this Proseminar will enable students to come to terms with the ways space was gendered in the medieval period, and still is now. It will investigate how literary production encodes, and encoded, gender geographically. 

Using contemporary theories focusing on the gendering of architecture and space, students will learn to qualify the perceived medieval binary association of women with the private sphere, and men with public life (with the common, public woman as a liminal case) by examining how religion, socio-economic status, or professional activity changed the geography of women's medieval experience, as well as exploring the ways in which women challenged these fleeting geographical boundaries through pilgrimage, festivals, visionary experiences, etc... Through excerpts from Ancrene Wisse, Chaucer's "Wife of Bath Prologue", and the writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe (with additional use of shorter passages from patristic writings, other women writers on the Continent, etc...), this seminar will offer students a broader understanding of what it means to be a woman in space, and what it meant in the Middle Ages in England. It will point to ways gender was used in literature to signify other concerns, such as heterodoxy, social status, the difference between religious and secular, and that between public and private.