Dr. Jane Chance                                            Rice University

Spring, 2005                                                  2:30-5:30 Tuesday               


English 517/WTSG 413: Medieval Women Writers



This course will examine the most                                                         

significant medieval European women

authors from the tenth through the

seventeenth centuries, from the Byzantine

Empire to France, Germany, Italy,

England, Austria, Belgium, Bohemia, and

Spain. Using a variety of techniques and

Media to access their work—feminist and

Gender theory, reader-response theory, staging

And performance, films, recordings, slides,

etc.,—we will combine close reading with a focus

On intertextuality in an attempt to recover

A feminized and multicultural literary



All work will be read in translation.


Requirements: weekly/biweekly position papers (1-2 pages; ungraded); for graduate students, one 15-25 pp. seminar paper (to grow out of one of the position papers); for undergrads, 10-15 pp.

(Attendance is of course expected and required, and participation gladly welcomed.)


Required Texts (in order of use)

All books will be on reserve at Fondren Library and can be checked out for two hours or overnight. Any readings not available for purchase through the Book Store will be made available for photocopying at the English Department (Herring Hall). All are in paperback, unless otherwise indicated.


Laurie Finke, Feminist Theory, Women’s Writing, Cornell, 1992. 0801497841 $19.95 HQ1190.F56. 1992

Joan Cadden, The Meaning of Sex Differences in the Middle Ages, Cambridge, 1995. 0521483786 $27.99

Hildegard of Bingen, On Natural Medicine and Philosophy, trans. Margret Berger, Boydell & Brewer, 1997 0-85991-551-4 $24.95 R128.H513. 1999

Jocelynne Wogan-Brown, ed. Voicing Medieval Women, Chaucer Studio, 1996 (pb and tape).0-ISBN 86396-2653   PN667.V65 1996

Marcelle Thiébaux, ed. The Writings of Medieval Women: An Anthology, 2nd ed., Garland, 1994. 0815313926 $38.95

Hrotsvit, A Florilegium of Her Works, trans. Katharina Wilson, Boydell & Brewer, 1998. 085991-489-5 $19.95 PA8340.A281 1998

Heloise and Abelard, The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, trans. Betty Radice, Penguin, 1974. 014-044297-9 PA8201.A4 1974. 2004 revised ed.: 0140448993 $11.20

Marie de France, Lais, trans. Robert Hanning and Joan Ferrante, Baker Books/Labyrinth, 1982. 0-8010-2031X PQ1494.L3E5 1982. $19.99 1995 ed.

Thomas de Cantimpré, The Life of Christina of St. Trond, trans. Margot King, Peregrina Press, 1983. 1989 ed.: 0920669018 $6.99 BX 4705.C47 T4613 1989

Marguerite Porete, Mirror of Simple Souls, trans. Ellen L. Babinsky. Classics of Western Spirituality, pb. 0809134276 $16.07 BV 5091.C7P6713 1993

Angela of Foligno, Writings, trans. Cristina Mazzoni, Boydell & Brewer, 1999. 0-85991-562X $24.95 BX4705.A 59 A3 1999

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love and The Motherhood of God, trans. Frances Beer, Boydell and Brewer, 1998.0-85991-453-4 $13.97 BV48822.J8513 1008b. Also available as an e-book.

Margery Kempe, The Book, trans. Lynn Staley. W. W. Norton, 2001.0-393-97639-4 PR2007.K4A199 2001. 2000 ed: $14.20.

Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards, Persea Books, 1982, rev. ed., 1998. 0892552301 $9.56 PQ1575.L56E5 1982

John M. Klassen, with Eva Doležalovŕ and Lynn Szabo, The Letters of the Rozmberk Sisters: Noblewomen in Fifteenth-Century Bohemia, Boydell and Brewer, 2001. 085991612X $24.99 DB2049.R69R69 2001

Diane Watt, trans.,The Paston Women : Selected Letters. Translated from the Middle English with Introduction, Notes, and Interpretive Essay, Boydell & Brewer, 2004. 1843840243 $19.01

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Poems, Protest, and A Dream.  Penguin. 0-14-044703-2 $11.20 PQ7296.J6A25 1997


 Films: Suzanne Schiffman, “Sorceress” (1988)—PN1997.S67 1988

            Clive Donner, “Stealing Heaven” (1988)—PN1997.S7725 1989

            Chris Newby, “Anchoress” (1993)—PN1997.A534 1993 

            Maria Louisa Bemberg, “And I, the Worst of All” (1990)—PN1997.Y646 1990

           (on reserve and also available at Blockbuster on Kirby) Dates films to be discussed  are starred below. A viewing time (if the class desires) will be arranged, most likely on Sunday.





Week 1: Reading Medieval Women


January 18: Introduction

Finke, Feminist Theory, Women’s Writing, pp. 1-28

Cadden, Meanings of Sex Difference in the Middle Ages, pp. 1-12, 54-104


Week 2: Gender in Medieval Philosophy and Science

January 25: Gender in Hildegard and Trotula

            Hildegard of Bingen, On Natural Philosophy and Medicine, trans. Berger Jackson

            The Middle English Trotula Texts, in Wogan-Browne, ed. Voicing Medieval Women, pp. 31-3 and Hand-Out

            Suzanne Schiffman, “Sorceress” (VHS/Overhead Projector)*


Week 3 & 4: Latin Writings by Medieval Women before the Twelfth Century

Feb. 2: Hrotsvit of Gandersheim: Gender, Drama, Staging

Hrotsvit, Dulcitius, Callimachus, Abraham, Sapientia

Hrotsvit, “Pelagius,” “Basilius,” and “Preface,” in Wilson

Gilchrist, Gender and Material Culture, pp. 1-21, 150-69, 188-93

(VHS/Overhead Projector)*


Feb. 9: Gender and the Medieval Epic

Hrotsvit, “Gesta” and  “Primordia,” in Wilson

Anna Comnena, Alexiad, excerpts, in Writings of Medieval Women, ed. Thiebaux, pp. 225-239


Week 5: Epistolary Subversion and Inversion in the Twelfth Century

Feb. 16: Heloise’s Letters

Heloise, Letters, 1-2, and Abelard, Historia calamitatum, trans. Radice; also in  Writings of Medieval Women, ed. Thiebaux

Brown, “Muliebriter: Doing Gender in the Letters of Heloise,” in Chance, ed. Gender and Text, pp. 25-51

Clive Donner, “Stealing Heaven” (1988)—PN1997.S7725 1989 (VHS/Overhead Projector)*


Week 6: Problems of Desire and Honor in the Lais of Marie de France (c. 1170)

Feb. 23: The Lais of Marie de France, trans. Hanning and Ferrante: “Guigemar,” “Le Fręne,” "Lanval,” “Läustic,” “Eliduc”


Week 7: Finding the Female Voice in Lyrics

March 1: The Trobairitz lyric

Wogan-Browne, Voicing Medieval Women, pp. 1-9:

            La Comtesse de Dia, “A chantar m’er de so q’ieu no volria” (I shall have to sing of that which I would not)

            Anonymous trobairitz, “No puesc mudar no digua mon vejaire” (I cannot help expressing my opnion)

Songs of the Women Troubadours, trans. Bruckner, Shepard, White (hand-out):

                        La Comtesse de Dia, “Ab ioi et ab ioven m’apais”

                                          “A chantar m’er de so q’ieu no volria”

                                          “Estat ai en greu cossirier”

                                          “Fin ioi me dona alegranssa”

                        Castelloza, “La de chantar non degra aver talan”

                                        “Amics, s’ie.us trobes avinen”

                                      “Mout avetz faich lonc estatge”

Read: Matilda Tomaryn Bruckner, “Fictions of the Female Voice: The Women Troubadours,” Speculum 67 (1992): 865-91.





Week 8: Medieval Women Mystics in Latin and the Vernacular

March 15: The Paradigm Texts: The Beguine’s Life as Sign, Her Writings as Heresy

Thomas de Cantimpré, The Life of Christina of St. Trond, trans. Margot King

Barbara Newman, “Possessed by the Spirit: Devout Women, Demoniacs, and the Apostolic Life in the Thirteenth Century,” Speculum 73 (1998): 733-70.

Selections from Marguerite Porete, Mirror of Simple Souls, trans. Ellen L. Babinsky (Classics of Western Spirituality), pb.

Week 9: European Women Mystics: Eroticism, Sublimation, and the Gender of God

March 22: Hildegard of Bingen and the Beguines

Hildegard, Symphonia, ed. and trans. Newman, selected lyrics; recordings

Mechthild of Magdeburg and Beatrijs of Nazareth, in Writings of Medieval Women, ed. Thiebaux, pp. 385-412

Angela of Foligno, Writings, trans. Mazzoni

             Slide Projector


Week 10: Fifteenth Century English Mystics

March 29: Julian of Norwich the Anchorite: The Theology of Maternity

Julian, Revelations, trans. Beer

Bynum, Jesus as Mother, Chapter 4 (recommended)

            “The Anchoress” (Film Clips) (VCR/Overhead Projector)


Week 11: Margery Kempe the Unliked Preacher

April 5: Margery Kempe’s Book and the Author’s Voice

Margery Kempe, Book, ed. Windeatt

Staley, “English Nation,” from Staley, Margery Kempe’s Dissenting Fictions,  chap. 4 (hand-out)

SPRING RECESS (Thursday, April 7)


Week 12: Resolving the Problem of Female Desire in Courtly Songs and Fictions

April 12: Christine de Pizan, Gender and Myth

            Christine de Pizan, City of Ladies, book 1, trans. Richards

             Slide Projector


Week 13: The Letters of Women from Central and Eastern Europe and the West Compared

April 19: Selected Letters from the Rozmberk Sisters and the Paston Women

            John M. Klassen, with Eva Doležalovŕ and Lynn Szabo, The Letters of the Rozmberk Sisters: Noblewomen in Fifteenth-Century Bohemia,

            Diane Watt, trans., The Letters of the Paston Women: A Selected Translation.


Week 14: The Writings of Women from Spain: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz on Empowerment

April 26: Sor Juana, Poems, Protest, and a Dream

            Maria Louisa Bemberg, “And I, the Worst of All” (1990)—PN1997.Y646 1990

             (VCR/Overhead Projector)


May 5 @ 12 noon—final paper due.


Recommended Readings (On Reserve; starred items available at Bookstore):


Altmann, Barbara, and Deborah McGrady, ed. A Casebook on Christine de Pizan. Routledge. 0415939097 $99.95 PQ1575.Z5C464 2003

Barratt, Alexandra, ed. Women’s Writing in Middle English, Longman’s, 1992. 058206192X $35.78 PR1120.W66 1992

Bynum, Caroline Walker,  Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion. Zone Books, 1992. 0942299639 $39.00 BT741.2.B95 1991    

___________________. Jesus as Mother:  Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages, University of California Press, 1982. 0520052226 $19.95 BV4490.B96 1982

*Chance, Jane, ed. Gender and Text in the Later Middle Ages. University Press of Florida, 1996, pb. 0813013917 $59.95 PN682.W6G46 1996

Elliott, Dyan. Proving Woman: Female Spirituality and Inquisitional Culture in the Later Middle Ages. Princeton, 2004. 0691118604 $24.95 BR163.E55 2004

Ferrante, Joan.  To the Glory of Her Sex: Women’s Roles in the Composition of Medieval Texts. Indiana, 1997. 0523211085 $20.95 PN682.W6F39 1997; also available as an ebook

Finke, Laurie. Women Writing in Medieval England. Longmans, 1999. 0582259398 $120.00

Gilchrist, Roberta, Gender and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Religious Women. Routledge, 1994. 0415089034 $114.95 BX4220.G7G55 1994

Gouma, Thalia-Peterson.  Anna Komnene and her Times. Garland, 2000. 0815336454 $99.95 DF605.3.A56 2000

Green, Monica, “Women’s Medical Practice and Health Care in Medieval Europe,” Signs 14 (1989): 434-73. Available at the library.

___, The Trotula: An English Translation of the Medieval Compendium of Women's Medicine (The Middle Ages Series), University of Pennsylvania, 2002. 0812218086 $19.95

Grosz, Elizabeth, Space, Time, and Perversion, Routledge, 1995. 0415911370 $28.95 HQ1190.G758 1995

___, Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism, Indiana University Press, 1994. 0253208629 $16.95 HQ1190.G76 1994

Hollywood, Amy. The Soul As Virgin Wife: Mechthild of Magdeburg, Marguerite Porete, and Meister Eckhart (Studies in Spirituality and Theology X), Notre Dame Press, 2001. 0268017697 $22.95 BV5075.H64 1995

Jacques de Vitry, The Life of Marie d’Oignies, trans. Margot King, 3rd ed., Peregrina Press, 1989. 0920669026 Out of print. BX4705.M38J33132 1989

Krueger, Roberta, Women Readers and the Ideology of Gender in Old French Verse Romance, Cambridge University Press, 1993. 0521432677 $110.00 PQ155.W6K85 1993

Lochrie, Karma. Margery Kempe and the Translations of the Flesh. U Pennsylvania, 1991. 081221557 $19.95 PR2007.K4Z77 1991

Newman, Barbara. From Virile Woman to WomanChrist: Studies in Medieval Religion and Literature. University of Pennsylvania, 1995. 0812215451 $21.95 BV639.W7N48 1995

___. “Possessed by the Spirit: Devout Women, Demoniacs, and the Apostolic Life in the Thirteenth Century,” Speculum 73 (1998): 733-70. Available at the library and online at JSTOR.

___. Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard, Theology of the Feminine, California, 1987. 0520211626 $18.95 BX4700.H5N48 1987 Also available as an ebook.

___, ed. and trans., Hildegard of Bingen’s Symphonia, Cornell University Press, 1988. 0801485479 $19.95 BV469H534S9513 1998 (1442444.0)

____, ed. Voice of the Living Light: Hildegard of Bingen and her World, University of California Press, 1998. 0520217586 $25.00 BX4700.H5V65 1998 Also available online as an ebook.

Petroff, Elizabeth, ed., Medieval Women’s Visionary Literature, Oxford, 1986. 0195037111 Out of print. BR53.P44 1986

Richards, Earl Jeffrey Richards, with Joan Williamson, Nadia Margolis, and Christine Reno, ed. Reinterpreting Christine de Pizan,  University of Georgia, 1992. 0820313076 Used and new from $6.70. PQ1575.Z5R45 1992

Solterer, Helen, The Master and Minerva: Disputing Woman in French Medieval Culture, University of California Press, 1995. 0520088352 $25.00 PQ155.W6S65 1995

Staley, Lynn, Margery Kempe's Dissenting Fictions. University Park: Penn State University Press, 1994. 0271010304 Used and new from $7.41 PR2007.K4Z75 1994

Wheeler, Bonnie, ed. Listening to Heloise: The Voice of a Twelfth-Century Woman. Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. 0312213549 $75.00 BX4705.H463.L57 2000

Wilson, Katharina, ed. Medieval Women Writers, University of Georgia Press, 1986. 082030641X $22.95 PN667.M43 1984

____, Phyllis Brown, and Linda McMillan, eds., Hrotsvit of Gandersheim: Contexts, Identities, Affinities, and Performances, University of Toronto Press, 2004. 0802089623 $60.00 PA8340H76 2004


Office Hours:


TH 3-5 pm 235 Herring and by appointment

jchance@rice.edu; 713-348-2625; fax 713-348-5991