English311/ WGST300/MDST 300: Medieval Women Writers

Rice University

Fall, 2001


Instructor: Dr. Jane Chance, English                                                TTH 2:30-3:45   

This course will examine the most                                                   

Significant medieval European women

Authors from the tenth through the

Seventeenth centuries, from Italy and

Germany to France, England, Austria, 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, Journal entries and personal

Criticism, etc.—we will combine close reading

With a focus on intertextuality in an

Attempt to recover a feminized literary



All works will be read in translation.


Requirements: weekly journals;

three  5-7 page papers

(Attendance is of course expected and

required, and participation gladly

welcomed.) See below.


Note: Interested graduate students may enroll in this course as an English Department Directed Reading. Please see instructor.

Required Texts (in order of use)

All texts 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 (Fondren 510). All are paperback, unless otherwise indicated.


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

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

Heloise and Abelard, The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, trans. Betty Radice, Penguin, 1974. 014-044297-9

Marie de France, Lais, trans. Robert Hanning and  Joan Ferrante, Baker Books/Labyrinth, 1982. 0-8010-2031X

Angela of Foligno, Writings, trans. Cristina Mazzoni, Boydell & Brewer, 1999.0-85991-562X

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love and The Motherhood of God, trans. Frances Beer, Boydell and Brewer, 1998.0-85991-453-4

Margery Kempe, The Book, trans. Lynn Staley. W. W. Norton, 2001.0-393-97639-4

Christine de Pizan, The Book of the Duke of True Lovers, trans. Thelma Fenster and Nadia Margolis. Persea, 1991.0-89255-166-6

Sor Juana. Poems.  Penguin. 0-14-044703-2


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

            Clive Donner, “Stealing Heaven” (1988)--

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

            Lars Von Trier, “Breaking the Waves” (1996)--

            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.




Week 1: Reading Medieval Women

            August 28: Introduction (DVD/Overhead Projector)

August 30: Gender Difference in Trotula of Salerno and Middle English Medical Texts

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


Week 2: Gender in Medieval Philosophy and Science

           Sept. 4: Suzanne Schiffman, “Sorceress” (VHS/Overhead Projector)*

                        Hildegard of Bingen, De Cause et Cure: On Natural Medicine and Philosophy (hand-out)


Week 2 & 3: Latin Writings by Medieval Women before the Twelfth Century: Hrotsvit

Sept. 6:  Hrotsvit of Gandersheim: Gender, Drama, Staging

Hrotsvit, Dulcitius, Callimachus (VCR/Overhead Projector)

            Sept. 11 & 13: Abraham, Sapientia (VCR/Overhead Projector)


Week 4: Epistolary Subversion and Inversion in the Twelfth Century

Sept. 18 & 20: Heloise’s Letters

Heloise, Letters, 1-2, and Abelard, Historia calamitatum, trans. Radice

                        Clive Donner, Stealing Heaven (VCR/Overhead Projector)*


Week 5: Problems of Desire and Honor in the Lais of Marie de France (c. 1170)

Sept. 25 & 27: The Lais of Marie de France, trans. Hanning and Ferrante: “Guigemar,” “Le Frêne,” "Lanval,” “Läustic,” “Eliduc”


Week 6: Finding the Female Voice in Lyrics

Oct. 2 & 4: 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”



Week 7: European Women Mystics: Eroticism, Sublimation, and the Gender of God

Oct. 9 & 11: Angela of Foligno, Writings, trans. Mazzoni


MID-TERM BREAK (Oct. 15-16)


Week 8: Eroticism, Sublimation, and the Gender of God: Modern Analogies

Oct. 18: “Breaking the Waves” (Film Discussion) (DVD/Overhead Projector)*


Week 9: Fifteenth Century English Mystics: Julian of Norwich the Anchoress

           Oct. 23 & 25 : Julian of Norwich on The Theology of Maternity

Julian, Revelations, trans. Beer


Week 10: Fifteenth Century English Mystics: Julian of Norwich the Anchoress

Oct. 30 & Nov. 1: “The Anchoress” (Film Discussion) (DVD/Overhead Projector)*


Week 11: Fifteenth Century English Mystics: Margery Kempe the Preacher

Nov. 6 & 8: Margery Kempe’s Book and the Author’s Voice

                        Margery Kempe, Book, ed. Staley


Week 12: Resolving the Problem of Female Desire in Courtly Songs and Fictions: Christine de Pizan, Gender and Romance

          Nov. 13: Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, Chapters 1-2 (Hand-Out) Slide Projector

          Nov.  15: Christine de Pizan, The Book of the Duke of True Lovers, trans. Fenster


Week 13:

         Nov. 20: Christine de Pizan, The Book of the Duke of True Lovers (cont.)

         Thanksgiving: Nov. 22-23


Week 14: The Writings of Women from Spain

         Nov. 27 & 29: Sor Juana, Poems


Week 15: The Writings of Women  from Spain (cont.)

         Dec. 4 & 6: “I, the Worst of All” (Film Discussion) (VCR/Overhead Projector)*




1.      Weekly journals: Please write your observations each week on one of your reading assignments and/or the film. These journals will be collected periodically on Thursday and returned to the white boxes next to 5th floor elevator on Sunday.

2.      Please view each film before the first day on the work/film. These are available from Fondren Reserve and at Blockbuster.

3.      Formal requirements: 3 short papers of 5-7 pp. Topics can grow out of journals or class discussion. All papers double-spaced, with pages numbers; send as rtf. files or in hard copy by 5 pm on day due. Use MLA style; in-class texts parenthetical citations.

4.      Attendance: you can have 3 cuts no questions asked. Illness requires a formal excuse. After 3 cuts absences without excuse will likely affect your grade.


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


Barratt, Alexandra, ed. Women’s Writing in Middle English, Longman’s, 1992.

Benton, John, “Trotula, Women’s Problems, and the Professionalization of Medicine in the Middle Ages,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 59 (1985): 30-53.

Bynum, Caroline Walker,  Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion. Zone Books, 1992.           

___________________. Jesus as Mother:  Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages, University of California Press, 1982.

*Chance, Jane, ed. Gender and Text in the Later Middle Ages. University Press of Florida, 1996. 0-8130-1391-7

Finke, Laurie. Women Writing in Medieval England. Longmans, 1999.

Gilchrist, Roberta, Gender and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Religious Women. Routledge, 1994.

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

*Hildegard of Bingen, On Natural Medicine and Philosophy, trans. Margret Berger, Boydell & Brewer, 1997 0-85991-551-4

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

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

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

Richards, Earl Jeffrey Richards, with Joan Williamson, Nadia Margolis, and Christine Reno, ed. Reinterpreting Christine de Pizan, University of Georgia, 1992.

Staley, Lynn, Margery Kempe's Dissenting Fictions. University Park: Penn State University Press, 1994.

Thiebaux, Marcelle. The Writings of Medieval Women. 2nd ed. Routledge (Garland).

Wilson, Katharina, ed. Medieval Women Writers, University of Georgia Press, 1986.


Office Hours: TTH 3:45-5 pm 511 Fondren Library and by appointment

jchance@rice.edu; 713-348-2625; home 713-524-3304; fax 713-346-5991; http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~jchance




©Copyright 2001, all rights reserved.
Updated Feb. 21, 2001

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