Madeline H. Caviness

Reframing Medieval Art:
Difference, Margins, Boundaries

Table of Contents:



Note to the Reader

Introduction: Soundings/Sightings

Chapter 1: Writing Women: Problematics of History and Language

Chapter 2: Norman Knights, Anglo-Saxon Women, and the "Third Sex:" The Masculinization of England After the Conquest

Chapter 3: Hedging in Men and Women: The Margins as Agents of Gender Construction

Chapter 4: Edging Out Difference: Revisiting the Margins as a Postmodern Project

Afterword: Social Control through Multivalent Images

Reader Comments

Introduction: Soundings/Sightings


Thus, according to Aristotle in the 16th book On Animals, woman is a failed male, that is, the matter that forms a human being will not result in a girl except when nature is impeded in her actions because of the disposition of the matter and of natural heat, for a particular nature always intends to produce a male and not a female. If a female results, this is because of certain factors hindering the disposition of the matter, and thus it has been said that woman is not woman, but a monster in nature.
De secretis mulierum. 1

I do not deny that the effects of the past are still with us. But I refuse to strengthen them by repeating them, to confer upon them an irremovability the equivalent of destiny, to confuse the biological and the cultural.
Hélène Cixous 2

These double edges of difference have often been apparent in ... legal contexts .... For example, in cases involving admission to the bar or service on juries, the same assertions about distinctive feminine attributes figured on both sides of the debate. Opponents of women's entrance to the legal profession assumed that her "natural ... delicacy" and "subordination of hard reason to sympathetic feeling" ill suited her for all the "nastiness of the world that finds its way into the courts of justice." ... By contrast, advocates of female attorneys claimed that their "delicacy, refinement, and conscientiousness" would often accomplish more than the "severity and sternness" of a male.
Deborah Rhode, 1990, 203.

Rethinking medieval culture in terms of late twentieth-century theories is taking place, but very slowly, and slowest of all in the study of visual objects (Middleton, 12-15, 21-23; cf. Alexander). 3 Despite the leadership and encouragement of the editors of the interdisciplinary Medieval Feminist Newsletter, and the many conference sessions run by the instigators of the Medieval Feminist Art History Project, there is as much a need for a book on the subject today as there was fifteen years ago when I began to teach "Women and Medieval Art." 4 Yet it is an encouraging sign of change that interdisciplinary collections with up-to-date agendas sometimes now include an essay on the visual arts (e.g. Camille in Lochrie et al., Camille and Caviness in Ziolkowski, Caviness in Partner and in McCash, Sheingorn in Parsons & Wheeler). And images of medieval women are quite often presented as historical/social documents (Frugoni in Klapisch-Zuber). Yet many important collaborative works, such as Sisters and Workers in the Middle Ages , edited by Bennett and Clark et al., touch only obliquely on the visual arts; in that particular case this oversight is compensated by Bell's fundamental essay on women book owners.

Since I began teaching Women's Studies courses, the field of gender studies has changed rapidly in the direction of an emancipating destabilization, as espoused by Barrett and Phillips, and by Flax. 5 Destabilization has even advanced to the point of questioning the notion of "women" as a category for analysis, as posited by Butler and Modleski, and anxiously discussed by Alcoff and Lauretis (a), among others. Boundaries are being shifted as disciplines are redefined (Greenblatt & Gunn, 4-5): Gender polarity no longer structures the study of "women;" art historians no longer study "art" (as opposed to non-art) nor "history" (as opposed to criticism), and we no longer have to decide between architecture and the "minor," "decorative" or pictorial arts; medievalists need not sever the sacred from the secular, Latin from vernacular texts, or "literature" from other writings (though they often do). "Theorists" are less concerned with choices between historically contingent and universal "causes," merging culture with nature in so far as definitions of "nature" must be historically contingent. As anthropologist Rubin had pointed out: "Sex/gender systems are not ahistorical emanations of the human mind; they are products of historical human activity" (Rubin, 204). 6

There are those who fear that historical perspectives will be annihilated, and to them "Medieval Feminist" has an odd ring; I am often told, "But of course there were no feminists then [and it's a good thing too]." Semantically these critics are correct, we have too easily elided feminist-medievalist to sound like an anachronism. 7 The erasure of "history," in so far as it renders alterity moot, is an erasure of difference that is ironic in light of our postmodern efforts to come to terms with differences of sex/gender arrangements, class, and ethnicity. Applied to culturally distant materials, much literary analysis that acknowledged different (gender-based) readings ignored the tension between historicity and contemporary criticism. 8 Theorists who claim their paradigms are universal risk a charge of "presentism" by medievalists, classicists, and biblical scholars (Bynum, 7, 26-27, 30-31; duBois, 9, 15-17). 9 Models from a distant past can reinforce what the philosopher Martin recently referred to as "the extraordinarily important insight that phenomena that traditionally have been considered natural, and therefore fixed, are social constructs with histories" (Martin, 640). For this reason she advocated the study of some object of inquiry over time, charting change, rather than a contextual or synchronic approach (641). The resisting voice of Cixous is quoted at the head of this text.

My justification for drawing parallels between medieval and modern case studies stems from the vivid experience of beginning to read Susan Jefford's book, The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War , as I was thinking about the Bayeux Embroidery as a representation of war. Over and over again, I was struck by parallels, despite any qualms about anachronism or "slovenly syllogism." 10 It was this book, with its critical look at the consequences of representing a world without women, that led me to regard the Embroidery as an emblem of the masculinization of England after the Norman Conquest, and eventually drove me to consider the reconfiguration of masculinities in its treatment of armed conflicts. Jeffords' book represents a genre of postmodern critique that expands its purview from "literature" to encompass mass media, journalism, short stories and novels, blends psychoanalytic, political, sociological, and gender studies theories, and stays clear of argumentation about claims to historical truth. Using it as a base for a comparative cross-cultural study is liberating: It suspends the historical questions that pertain to the specificity vis a vis universal traits of Western medieval culture, and reframes the questions in terms of what can be, rather than what must be, as Boswell has posited. What can be the effect of a war fought exclusively by men, on their attitudes to women? How may the absence of women be compensated for? How are fluid gender boundaries sometimes regulated? How do dominant ideologies shape representations at different times?

The basic premise of this book is that all writings and visual images participate in the construction of difference. I begin by heightening the reader's awareness of the nature of the discourse of art history, and the supporting role it has played to the construction of gender in the modern period. Attitudes to sexual difference that are embedded in all language (as well as in the terms pertaining to the field) continue to place blocks in the way of changing the canon by including works made by and for women; the classic one is the asymmetry of Old Master / old mistress, one of a long list of such discrepant pairs presented in chapter one. Medievalists will notice a kind of symmetry, however, in the way in which the account in Genesis that has Adam name all the animals before woman was created -- and then has him name her -- agrees with twentieth-century Lacanian psychoanalytic theory in making the symbolic order a male province. Such agreements arise from fundamental tenets that are preserved from scrutiny because they operate at a mythic level, as argued by Goux for psychoanalytic and ethnographic notions of the phallus. Certain objects -- or beliefs -- may be "shielded from all immediate understanding and from all philosophic evidence," occupying a space from which they permeate cultural and societal manifestations (Goux, 40). A project to write women into art history would be naïve without taking these mythic truths into account, and actively challenging them. Such "truths," once unveiled as yet another layer that contributes to the ideological work of gender formation, can be de-naturalized in our epistemologies.

An assumption at a mythic level that all linguistic expression is somehow the province of the male, should alert us to the logical corollary -- that women may be silenced. Thus in chapter one, before looking at language, and as part of the same enterprise, I develop a case study that allows me to examine the ways in which even the most basic facts concerning "the middle ages" have been mediated to us. Cultural artifacts -- texts, buildings, images -- are only representations in the first place, but before they are re-read and scrutinized by late twentieth-century eyes they have been culled selectively to suit interim notions of medieval culture. They have also been edited / photographed and written into histories that are modern reconstructions of a medieval past, histories that were inflected by nationalism, classism and sexism. Thus I overlay the story of Agnes of Braine's role in building and decorating the new Gothic church at Braine, in northern France, in so far as it is recoverable from the documents and the building itself, with the events in "women's history" of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that ensured a silencing of that role; and I uncover a vivid but very ordinary example in the past of my own university, to demonstrate the same compulsion operated to silence women in the United States as late as 1910.

In subsequent chapters, my project is to scrutinize specific cases, each rooted in its own historical moment and cultural context, where gender polarities at first seem paramount but in fact may break down when pressured by postmodern theory. As the title suggests, and the first case-study, of the Bayeux Embroidery, confirms, this book is also about masculinities. One might say that "women" in the middle ages were frequently constructed in order to define masculinity. With the exception of some remarkable women writers in monastic orders (one of whom, Hildegard of Bingen, also composed pictures and music), it is almost impossible to meet any "real" women -- female representations with subjectivity, agency, and a voice of their own -- so much are they the fabrication of male thinkers. The difficulties of finding a woman's voice, of writing women into history, and making women visible have continued into our own time; the excursi into language and silencing in chapter one set a realistic stage for the study of medieval women. It is in this problematic, rather than in their essence, that they are female: If all gender identity is performatively constituted, as Butler cogently argued, responses to this problematic are a part of being female (Butler, 1990, 25). "Women" in the middle ages were as much an "epistemic community" formed by their common history of oppression as they are now (Frye, 183-184). According to Shahar, they together constituted a fourth estate, not being able to belong entirely to the three classes of those who pray, those who fight, and those who work. Marxist understandings of class structure and ideology can assist feminists in their project to reveal the forces that ensured women's membership in such a community. As one social activist and theoretician put it, socialization carries equal weight with production, reproduction, and sexuality, all structures that maintain the unequal status of women (Mitchell, 396).

In chapters two and three, I examine objects made in England or France between the late eleventh century and the early fourteenth century, for the ways they participated in the construction of gender in the middle ages. Situating myself as a feminist, my initial project was to examine the plight of women not so much through their representation as through the works of art they made (an embroidery) or looked at (prayer books). As an extension of the historiographical notion of silencing, which I examined in chapter one, I posited an example of the exclusion of women from a medieval work that purports to be a record of actual events, the Bayeux Embroidery. The basis for a post-structuralist analysis of this situation is provided by the deconstructive maxim that absence structures presence. In the absence of women -- or as I prefer to say, exclusion which is closer to the French feminists' absense -- a fundamental imperative to create hegemonic difference is answered in the Embroidery by the construction of an enemy Other (the Anglo-Saxon men) as a third sex. Chapter two thus begins to destabilize the "women's studies" project, demonstrating that constructions of masculinity cannot be somehow separated off from it, and that our theories of gender have to be "queered." The two chapters that follow bring this home by first looking at the images in a series of prayer books made for known female or male owners in light of medieval notions of gender; such an enterprise generally finds agreement between text and image, in this case apparently confirming a male / female opposition. Only postmodern theory can deconstruct such seemingly natural polarities, and that is the project of the last chapter where the same books are reexamined in that light. Unwilling, however, to relinquish an historical perspective, I establish a denser context in order to uncover the "necessity," in late medieval society, for the heterosexual imperative. Representations of difference in "Western culture" have been variable and contingent, and at least one theorist has called to our attention that gender relations are not always based on wealth and power (Bloch).

For these case studies, I purposefully selected works that had a stronger connection to laity than to monastics because it was among the laity that sex/gender arrangements were most evident; dress codes and the division of labor, for instance, were scarcely differentiated between monks and nuns (though women could not receive orders or, therefore, celebrate mass). The embroidered hanging long known as the "Bayeux Tapestry" connects with the secular world in its subject matter, the military conquest of England by the Normans. The manuscripts studied in chapters three and four were almost all made for lay individuals. Yet sacred and secular were never separate in medieval culture, and churchmen seem to have been heavily involved in the planning of all these works, thus participating in gender ideology and in the discourse of sexuality. Masculinity was a performative act by the fighting men who won in the battlefield, as the Bayeux Embroidery makes clear, but the bishop-patron had himself represented among them. Some of the rules for masculine/feminine behaviors were more subtly encoded later, in men's and women's prayer books that were made under the direction of the new orders of mendicant preachers.

In the "high" middle ages, a period when women throughout Europe were being disempowered or "put in their place," works of art were enlisted to do some of the ideological work of gender construction. 11 Wives especially needed instructing in "proper" behavior because an increased emphasis on patrilineal descent created anxiety over the legitimacy of offspring. Procreation is at the interface of such societal concerns with biological notions, and gender identities are imbedded in both. 12 Paradoxically, although sexual difference was not as polarized in medieval scientific discourse as it has been in modern times, and in theological discourse gender distinctions were sometimes disregarded at the higher levels of monastic spirituality, in social practice an increasing anxiety about women's place seems to have driven a reactionary (re)construction of gender in strictly polarized terms. This was (also) a period of recurrent military aggressions, stretching from the Norman conquest of England (1066), occasioned by the lack of a direct male heir to the English throne, to the Hundred Years War (1337- 1453), fought over English claims of patrilineal succession to the throne of France. Fighting, at least in its representations, became the almost exclusive domain of men, and through these we can trace the constructions of masculinity that inform representations of gender. 13 These representations are mirrored in textual sources that treated the occasional appearance of women in the battle field as quite normal in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, but in the later period regarded such behavior as abnormal. 14

The "historical" models examined in this book, widely dispersed in time, not only test modernist claims to universality for a binary gender system, but also allow us to perceive the great changes that were occurring in the high middle ages. Yet I do not believe that the feminist project is best advanced by preferring "history" (itself a modern invention) over other modern discourses, such as anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis or semiotics. In our postmodern world, no discourses deserve to be treated as privileged repositories of universal truths. It cannot be said often enough, especially in response to attacks on psychoanalysis as an anachronistic approach to the middle ages, that history as we practice it is a modern (Hegelian) invention, and all historical narratives are modern constructions; this is brought home in chapter one. 15 I have wanted none the less to maintain a "historical perspective" -- not a one-eyed vision from a fixed point, but a view that takes into account greater and lesser temporal distances as part of alterity, and that acknowledges what came before and what later, even though the one does not necessarily account for the other. This book is concerned with selected works of art that illuminate these changing sex/gender arrangements. It is not a revisionist history, but a problematization of history using the lenses of twentieth-century theories of gender, a process of reconfiguration that I explain below as triangulation. 16

The Construction of Masculinity: Riding a Cock Horse, from Freud to Feminism

During its writing, as my attention was increasingly given to masculinities, this book acquired a nick-name which grew from my resistance to readings by an admirer of Freud, Ernst Gombrich. As a response to his Meditations on a Hobby Horse , I thought of these feminist interventions as Essays on a Cock Horse. I had read Gombrich's book avidly in my post-college days, as I did all his others. 17 Gombrich and his fellow immigrants represented, for British art history, the civilized, sophisticated, broadly-based, interdisciplinary cultural traditions of continental Europe; our own brand was narrowly archaeological and showed itself off best in the television game of "Animal, Vegetable or Mineral;" "experts" can always agree on answers if the questions are framed narrowly enough. Gombrich "knew Freud," the person and his writings, yet he could not free himself from Freudian disavowal. His analysis of the representation of sex difference in Israel von Meckenem's fifteenth-century print is a good example of suppressions brought about by a post-Freudian discourse of sexuality, as Foucault might have predicted. 18 This, I suppose, more than mere deference to the constraints still imposed in the 1950s by England's puritanical Victorian era, caused him to avoid naming the male child's toy a cock horse (fig. 1). 19 Yet it does seem that the suppression of the sexual meanings once attached to a cock horse (the horse as penis extender) has probably continued to the present in the United States. The toy mount grasped by President Kennedy's one-year-old son on the cover of Life in 1961 had the head of a cockerel; albeit a gift of the French President, General DeGaulle, it was a cock cock, not a cock horse (fig. 2)

Figure I.2



Gombrich's introduction is entitled "Meditations on a Hobby Horse or the Roots of Artistic Form." 20 He historicized the cock horse in Israel van Meckenem's print by associating it with the age of chivalry, insisting, therefore, on its representational value while claiming that "the 'first' hobby horse (to use eighteenth century language) was probably no image at all.

Figure I.1

Just a stick ...." References to ancient rites of shivaree, and to the nursery rhyme "Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross," are suppressed in a footnote, where assiduous readers might learn that at last one folklorist considered that the rhyme referred to "some horse-demon of fertility and power." 21 In fact, the version that continues "To see a fine lady upon a white horse" has been linked to legends of Lady Godiva riding naked except for her long hair. 22 The power of disavowal is evident a few pages further on, where having "changed the subject" Gombrich noted that "In an erotically charged atmosphere the merest hint of formal similarity with sexual functions (sic) creates the desired response and the same is true of the dream symbols investigated by Freud." And yet, in his analysis of an Egyptian and a Greek painting of half naked men with spears at the ready, he again allows the blatant phallic display to go uncommented. 23


I wish briefly to revisit the van Meckenem in light of a "thicker" historical context, and postmodern notions of the formation and performance of gender, anticipating the chapters in the last section of this book. The viewer is confronted with six nude boys -- babies really -- with clearly designated genitalia, and a slightly older clothed figure who also appears from his wide-legged stance to be male (fig. 1). In the left foreground, two boys learn to read from a tablet, while in the center field to their right a baby brandishing a whip and riding a cock horse gazes back at the viewer. The others are busied with pots of various kinds; in the right half of the print a group of three are concerned with filling an elevated vessel, the eldest one confidently emptying a vase into it. The only sexually and socially ambivalent child, dressed in a cap and a sash, drinks from a jug. This fifteenth-century print is blunter about these sex-linked behaviors than the somewhat earlier guides for the gendered behaviors of royal and aristocratic children that I will examine in chapter three; metaphorically, the vessel these boys are filling is a womb, since pot and vase were among the common euphemisms for female reproductive organs, or even metonymies for women. 24

The boy in the center also alludes to sexual activity as he whips up his passions, according to a medieval metaphor. His schematic cock horse, cut from a stick (virga or rod, a term for phallus), alludes to sexual prowess and even hypervirility. An anonymous Suabian hand-colored print of about the same time, depicting St. Dorothy in the company of the boy Jesus, also enhances the Christ Child's budding male genitalia with a cock horse; yet is this case, the demur child holding Dorothy's basket of flowers is exhibiting his manhood as a demonstration of his fully human (=fully sexed) nature (fig. 3).

Figure I.3

25 By contrast, as a descendant of fighting men like William of Normandy, the male child in the center of van Meckenem's nursery, not only evokes an active sexual life, but also anticipates an adult role in the saddle, fighting, jousting, or merely journeying. Combined with the need to learn Latin and rhetoric, these boys would have the necessary skills for Fighting for Life as Ong has termed the masculine pursuits of the Renaissance. 26 The formation and performance of their masculinity is linked to their genital sex, yet it also depends on playing with the right toys. The masculinity of the child decked out in odd clothing who drinks from his spout with eyes averted instead of emptying it into a vessel seems to be in doubt. Hovering outside the frame is the possibility of reverse behaviors; riding backwards in this period was inflicted as a humiliating punishment, or a gratuitous sign of witchcraft. 27


Gombrich's reading was inadequate on several counts. The dictionary meaning of hobby (French: hobin, hobi, haubby) was a small ambler especially favored in the middle ages for women because of its smooth lateral gait (like that of a Tennessee walking horse), and not at all suitable to construct Israel von Meckenhem's boys' masculinity. 28 And it had nothing to do with the cock horse (French: dada); "enforcher son dada" is to mount in the sexual and horsy senses of the word. Paul Gauguin characteristically suppressed less than Gombrich when he let his mind wander: "Sometimes I have gone far back, farther back than the horses of the Parthenon . . . as far back as the Dada of my babyhood, the good rocking horse. I have lingered amongst the nymphs of Corot, dancing in the sacred wood of Ville-d'Avray. This is not a book. I have a cock with purple wings, a golden neck, and a black tail. Mon Dieu , how fine he is! And he amuses me. I have a silver-grey hen, with ruffled plumage; . . . she is droll without being prudish. The cock makes a sign to her with his wings and feet and she immediately offers her rump. Slowly, vigorously too, he climbs on top of her. . . . The children laugh, I laugh." 29 Weaving in and out of art, he circles from horse to childish dada to cock to mounting to childish laughter. But the hobby has made its way into the metaphor "riding a hobby horse" to mean the rather too persistent pursuit of some particular interest -- such as, for Gombrich, the perceptual aspects of experiencing art works that are recurrent themes in his book. Thus he avoided acknowledging the phallic dominance that his generation of male art historians enjoyed: They all toyed with ideas and works of art. This would have been "up front" if the metaphor had been "fantasies on a cock horse."

In these essays, I have staged a revision which defamiliarizes the language of the metaphor. We will encounter medieval cock horses again, in each case study. 30 When I first encountered the middle English poem "I have a gentil cok," as an undergraduate at Newnham College, I was in little doubt as to the meaning of the metaphor, but it had to wait until 1998 for a public feminist decoding. 31

Constructing the Feminine: Ideology ad quadratum

The representation of women, in medieval literature and art, has been subjected since at least the 1960s to scrutiny in light of basic cultural attitudes; for instance, Marina Warner's pioneering study deconstructed the cult of the Virgin Mary by noticing how it reinforced patriarchy. 32

Figure I.4

In the mid-eighties, Barrett advanced our theoretical understanding of ideology, while deploring a tendency to de-materialize its workings through a focus on discursive practices.

Figure 5

Her analysis is particularly helpful in that it reaffirms the ideological role of cultural productions, and separates the "processes by which the work of reproducing gender ideology is done" into four very useful categories which I will adapt from her literary examples in order to illustrate their comparable roles in the visual arts (Barrett 1985, 80-82). These four terms are especially poignant in that they even apply to the most prominent woman in the Christian hierarchy, such as the Virgin Mary, but we will also notice them at work in relation to the nameless:

  • STEREOTYPES, as in the repetition of seated or standing Virgin and Child images. In the Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Chartres these are so numerous in the glass and sculpture that they drown each other out, and they have no culminating focus;

    Figure 2:4

    Figure 2:2b

    they are like the reiteration of so many Ave Marias at the behest of the priest hearing confession, that loose all meaning in their automatic recitation. Closely related examples from Agnes's church at Braine are illustrated here (figs. 4-5). They advocate bringing a male child into the world as chastely as possible, and promise dignity in motherhood. Other females performing stereotypical activities may be un-named cyphers, such as the mourner at King Edward's deathbed in the Bayeux Embroidery (figs. 2: 2 & 4).
  • COLLUSION (women's consent to their denigration), as when women embroiderers and viewers were led to associate female nudity with sexual encounters that disrupted genealogies or deprived Anglo-Saxon men of real masculinity, (figs. 2:5

    Figure 2:5b

    , 11, 17). More commonly, they were expected to condemn Eve and to accept her punishment by enduring unalleviated pain in childbirth. So too, a kneeling female book owner pays homage not only to the

    Figure I.7

    Virgin Mary, but even to the horrible tortures inflicted on St. Agatha, Catherine or Margaret, although the saint's breasts being torn off provided a sado-erotic spectacle to voyeurs (figs. 3.38, 40, 43). 33 And a young queen would be expected to pray for the safe "delivery" of her baby as if it, like St. Margaret, had been swallowed by a dragon only to be vomited forth from the monster in response to prayer (fig. 4: 1

    Figure 4.1

  • COMPENSATION (Barrett's example is the Catholic Church's mariolatry in the face of its treatment of real women) as in the panel in the life of the Virgin window in the nave of Chartres Cathedral, with the Virgin being taught to read in school by clerics -- when in fact real women were excluded from the cathedral schools (fig. 6

    Figure I.6

    ). Mary Magdalene preaching to the Apostles, is another case that continues to be represented in women's books even as the prohibition against women preaching was being promulgated by the Church. 34
  • RECUPERATION (a female character's apparent independence is "eventually denied by the action of the narrative") as when Mary Magdalen is marginalized in "her" window at Chartres, even when she is preaching Christ risen to the apostles; and in the top, churchmen take control, as they preach and bury her, and finally her tiny unsexed soul is passed from angel to Lord, a sign between men. 35

    I deliberately selected as examples of this ideological quadrangle works that were in public view, where they would work on their viewers' perceptions of gender roles. Although ideological production is unconscious, as it were automatically replicating existing social hierarchies, it can serve to perpetuate them. The readings of sex / gender arrangements that are offered through this approach leave aside psychoanalytic considerations (which have to do with individual experience) concentrating instead on power structures between groups. The theoretical base stems more from Marx than from Freud, expanding his notion of oppressed classes to include women as one of them (Donovan, 65-90; Isaak; Moi, 98, 141-142, 170-172; Alexander). The legacy is significant, even though Marx's own account of women was quite inadequate. 36

    Gender, the Feminist Project, and Medieval Culture

    The Feminist project, like the "Marxist" interpretations that have assisted in its definition, views history as a branch of ethical inquiry. It has also reopened the possibility of enlisting deconstruction and semiotics, those two maligned fields of supposedly purely semantic play, in the ethical project (Barrett; Lauretis b); some had in fact claimed deconstruction as a political tool from the beginning (Elam). 37 Feminist analyses may involve a consideration both of the means by which women have been subjugated (including representations in art), and the ways they have occasionally negotiated to find a voice (including artistic expression). Even though its base remains ethical, feminist history cannot merely be content to praise or condemn selected aspects of medieval culture. What is needed is to dislodge masculinist readings from the center, where they have been naturalized, and to read the past with an awareness of the hegemonies (then and now) implicit in attitudes to sexual difference.

    Yet unitary claims, such as that there is a feminist project, or that there is a category "women" that allows us to generalize, have been challenged in postmodern critiques (Butler; Elam, 27-66; Offen). Gender had become a new binary, aligned with two sexes (Sedgwick, 273-78). 38 With hindsight, it seems astonishing how slowly theories evolved that encompassed more varied sex/gender arrangements. There was an almost inexplicable latency following Mead's observation in 1935 that very variable "personalities" may be associated with one or both biological sexes; as indicated in the quotation at the head of chapter four, she was still defending and explaining her notion in 1950. 39 Seven years later, the psychiatrist Money introduced the term gender to account for non-anatomical differences that he supposed to be the product of environmental forces. 40

    It is an indication of the recurrent heterosexual imperative in western thought that Robert Stoller, professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and founder of the Gender Identity Research Project in 1958, is often credited with the first systematic challenge to a natural alignment of gendered behaviors with sexual difference in his 1968 study Sex and Gender . Yet he did not settle on the term gender construction, using instead its outcome in "gender identity" (Stoller, vii-x, 9, 65). He labored to distinguish "mental" sexuality from "physical" sexuality, making a space for transsexuals and transvestites, yet he maintained polar difference; he thought it imperative that "in those infants in whom ambiguous-appearing genitalia at birth make sex assignment uncertain, the proper sex must be diagnosed as soon as possible. Only by careful and rapid diagnosis can future emotional problems be avoided" (Stoller, 29-30). The development of what he called "core gender identity" was a responsibility of physicians and parents, albeit for the good of the individual now, whereas for Aristotle and Baudrillard it was for the good of the state. 41 Stoller's perception of a tenuous link between sexual and gender difference caused him to be all the more invested in the construction of distinctly male and female gender identities.

    By the seventies and eighties, first in England and eventually in the US, there was a veritable industry of publishing Gender and ... titles, in sociology, cultural studies, history, feminist literary criticism, and psychoanalysis. 42 In these decades the term -- and variable concept -- "gender" was assimilated into most discourses in the social sciences and humanities, and a new field of "gender studies" threatened to supplant the now problematized "women's studies." This is not the place to attempt a summary of this long episode in women's/gender studies, but a few landmarks must be noted; lengthy consideration of gender as a theoretical category is deferred until chapter four.

    In 1975, Rubin declared that "gender is a socially imposed division of the sexes," in an article that attempted to dislodge the naturalized biological notions of sexual difference that are embedded in western discourses (Rubin, 179). 43 In an essay first published in 1987, Stephen Graubard referred to the resistance Mead's ideas had encountered, but cited them only to support his dismissal of cultural feminism (which he called maternalist "based on the significance of women's experience as mothers") because "the whole idea of gender opposition, of female superiority [sic], must be set aside." 44 Here is a caveat for the contemporary plight of women, that if the essential sexual difference between child-begetting and child-bearing is too easily negated, systems of oppression can be claimed to be the inverse of what they are! 45 Fortunately, there have been more intelligent assessments of cultural feminism (Alcoff; Donovan). 46

    In 1989, two articles by Lauretis set out to salvage feminist theory from the growing charge that the collapse of polar difference as a viable term of analysis was leaving praxis out on a limb. In one she considered the vehemence of the charge of essentialism in light of the politics of (re)defining or not defining women (Lauretis, a). 47 In the other, she demonstrated the extent to which language had contributed to both the existence and the denial of family violence (child abuse, wife beating, and incest), concluding that "violence is en-gendered in representation" (Lauretis b, 240-241). Terms that purport to be neutral and therefore truthful, such as "spouse abuse" and "marital violence" enact a "rhetoric of violence" by hiding the statistic that "92 per cent of the victims are females and 97 per cent of the assailants are males;" writers who use these terms "purposefully engage in the violence of rhetoric" (b, 242). If we are still essentialist -- if we seem to overlook differences among women -- it is because men have created us as a single category (Rhode). If "a common (but not homogeneous) oppression is what constitutes us an epistemic community," what will happen when we free ourselves? First I suppose, with Frye, that "a common history of oppression and liberation would hold us for a long time in a degree of community" (Frye, 183-184). Offen came to a similar conclusion, though she is more hopeful that it is possible "to construct gender in such a way that the opportunities and choices available to individual women and men are maximized" (Offen, 20).

    Many responses at the philosophical level, as by Elam, do not fully address the issue of praxis. At the present time, in the microcosm of academe, there is an opening divide between the women's centers that provide support (all too often to victims of date rape) and the formal study of gender issues (whether designated Gender Studies or Women's Studies). Yet the old alliance had served to problematize women, and to perpetuate their isolation. Women's Centers often exist now apart from Gay and Lesbian Centers, as if by women we mean heterosexual females. The newer theoretical interventions may arrive at a better understanding of the role played in campus life and strife by the construction of heterosexual masculinity; but instead of founding men's centers to provide remedial instruction it might be possible to reunite theory and praxis under Gender Relations.

    These questions have perturbed me during the years I have formulated the studies presented in this book. 48 As the debates over essentialism intensified, it felt as though the ground slipped out under some of my case studies, though my approach finds support in the view of revisionist history presented by Boswell, and others. 49 Broadly stated, the studies that follow adapt a variety of recent theories about hegemonies of gender to aid in the process of re-evaluating representations of women (and men) in medieval art. These representations impinge on a variety of roles for women, such as their inclusion as makers, owners, patrons, and recipients of works, their function as subject or object, even their absence through exclusion or silencing. The art objects are looked at for the ways they did ideological work -- including that of gender construction itself; the power of images is such that they may either have maintained existing power structures, or in many cases, may have advanced the cause of patriarchy. Yet it would be pointless to prove over again that "The Middle Ages" (one thousand years of European experience) was monolithically patriarchal. Nor do I claim to provide another history of medieval women, although one might be gleaned from their images that would differ from the text-based ones by writers such as Anderson & Zinsser, Ennen, Power, Shahar, and Stuard.

    Ad triangulum : Pressuring the Medieval Object from different angles

    A "historical" awareness of a wide range of contexts and circumstances within the middle ages, and specifically of the unstable identity of "woman" in that period, keeps me mindful that there is not a single women's or feminist viewpoint now. Historians like Bynum and duBois have struggled as much against unitary identities as have post-modern theorists like Butler. As early as 1988 duBois even posited that psychoanalysis had only theorized "our present version of gender opposition," and that its "historically specific nature" must be acknowledged in dealing with ancient cultures. Yet she did not advocate abandoning psychoanalytic theory: "I think anyone concerned with subjectivity and with sexual difference and with power and hierarchy must come to terms with this theory (duBois, 9-11). The charge of anachronism, so often leveled defensively against psychoanalytic theories (more, it seems, than against semiotics, or economic theories, whether capitalist or Marxist), has been answered in a number of prefaces, perhaps never closer to my own views than by Apter in 1991: "Though in certain respects this interweaving of critical theory with historically grounded nineteenth-century French studies became unavoidably anachronistic, I purposely wanted to blur traditional chronological parameters in an effort to bring the questions of contemporary psychoanalysis, literary interpretation, and feminism into fruitful confrontation with their formative past." 50 Flax has posited a dynamic triune relationship between the different discourses of psychoanalysis, philosophy and feminism, without advocating that we attempt to reconcile the divergent views they offer of the same subject. The question I pose in this book is how are we to evaluate the tensions and discrepancies between pictorial constructions, viewed as cultural practice, and historical "reality?"

    Triangulation has come to hold special meaning for my work. Throughout this book I bring various feminist strategies to focus on selected works of art, and at the same time establishing a medieval context for them; in other words, I have two quite different angles from which I approach the object of study, giving a kind of stereoscopic vision. I have come to think of this model as an asymmetric triangle, where the medieval representations form an apex, projected between two widely separated viewing positions-- one of the postmodern feminist critic, the other of the "historian" whom I hold by definition to be modern. The historical viewpoint privileges commentaries by the makers and audience of the object in its original temporal and spatial frames, and may encompass interpretations over time; this is the conventional art historical route, the shorter of the two, yet it can no longer be viewed as the only one, connecting the ancient object directly with its modern viewer, the way it was held to be before the New Historicism. I still think of it as the short lever with which to pry open the object, but contextual study has a tendency to confirm the unity of culture at a given moment, rather than to reveal its fissures (Biddick in Partner). 51

    An invisible plumb-line links the viewer with the object in my model; this purports to represent the direct view of the object, assuming it is unaltered by restorers (the editors of our field), yet unmediated viewing is scarcely possible; even deconstructive readings that appear naive depend on a theory. The connection is invisible because it is illusionary:


    The theoretical side of the triangle is the long lever, capable of exerting greater pressure precisely because it is the least direct. It draws upon concepts that had not been entertained at the time the work was created, and it owes its power to its predisposition not to look for unity within medieval culture. 52 In several of the case-studies presented here, a point is reached where there is total agreement between "historical" interpretation and one based in modern theory (notably in the binary differences that structure chapter three). Yet I argue that it is precisely when such suspect unity emerges that it is the moment to invoke postmodern theories: It is the tension between postmodern theory and "history" that produces a new insight--as soon as they appear irreconcilable we can glimpse the underlying ideological structure that used to demand unified systems of interpretation. Thus one literary critic advocated "joining rather than avoiding the contradiction between ideological and appreciative criticism on the supposition that the crucial issues manifest themselves precisely at the points of contradiction." 53 Mitchell described a similar process as a unité de rupture: "the moment when the contradictions so reinforce one another as to coalesce into the conditions for a revolutionary change" (Mitchell, 397-98). The very positive side of this kind of thinking is that it liberates us for change, narrowing the field of "what has to be." 54 It begins to answer Judith Butler's question "What possibility exists for the disruption of the oppositional binary itself?" (Butler, 1990, 27).

    A series of agreements with, and disruptions of, binary gender distinctions the are worked through in each case study that follows. In the first, the very process of writing history is viewed as a silencing of herstory; two powerful widows -- one medieval and one modern -- were left out of modern histories. Had their benefactions been acknowledged they might have been seen as threatening to attain the status of men, which would be eschewed by conservative historians at a time when women were beginning to struggle for some rights. In Chapter two, a medieval case study of absent women is more fully worked out; the exclusion of women from the pictorial account of the conquest of England is found to collude with the construction of a new binary, in the form of an "other" masculinity, or "third sex."

    The theoretical framework that was my point of departure in Chapter two, namely an axiom of deconstruction that non-presence is a structuring term of presence, enabled me to decode this binary masculinity without, as yet, the newest literature on the third sex; I was fortunate to have access to unpublished work by Ferrari concerning representations of Greek masculinities. Our naming of a "third" sex seemed logical, in that a feminist writer, de Beauvoir, had accepted the term "second sex" for women in 1949. 55 It also has a third world ring about it, in agreement with the way that the "first sex" maintained a hegemonic relation toward these "other" men. However, "third sex" had been used since the nineteenth century by German sexologists to designate homosexuals, apparently without pejorative intent (Harris, 248). If I persist in the use of the third sex in chapter two, it is to demonstrate that deeply rooted attitudes have designated some men as "other," thereby creating a community of oppression -- a situation that is described in some of the historical models in Herdt's collection. Indeed, Nederman and True have now revealed a number of twelfth-century writings, in the discourses of natural science, philosophy, theology, and law, that indicate that the hermaphrodite was regarded as a third sex. This bi-sexual freak might "signal the loss of order" unless it chose a consistent gender role and sexual orientation (Nederman & True, 507, 515). As we will see, the "othered" Anglo-Saxons carried this threat of instability at the end of the previous century. Yet as I formulated my observations and analysis, queer theory was reclaiming these colonized territories, pre-empting the formerly negative connotations of "queer" and the "third sex" by instating these terms in a non-discriminatory discourse (Herdt). Since I am dealing only with representations, third gender might seem a more appropriate term, but it has to be rejected for the middle ages, because the sexes were rigidly marshaled into two gender roles throughout the period -- as this book demonstrates. On the other hand, recent work on sex/gender arrangements among Native American nations, for instance, has used third gender for people combining "masculine" and "feminine" characteristics, while fourth gender denotes men who live as women and women who live as men (Roscoe).

    In the final case study, an analysis of images in a group of books made for private devotion, my research was initially shaped by a narrowly focused view of medieval sex/gender arrangements in the early fourteenth century, that aligned gender with sexual bimorphism. This position found agreement between the ideological work of these fourteenth-century images, and contemporary texts concerning proper gendered behaviors, many of which centered on marriage. Though usually taken as a modern term, something like the notion of gender had operated within Western culture from antiquity through the middle ages, so that ideal definitions of femininity and masculinity had an impact on sex/gender arrangements. This is the nexus of the historical model presented here, which will (inevitably) lead to the observation of internal agreements within pre-modern culture; the result is a modernist narrative that does not problematize binary terms.

    Yet any historical project centering on sex/gender arrangements brings into play one of the most significant spheres of recent feminist theorizing, namely the queering of binary gender construction. 56 The heterosexual imperative, reaffirmed in my modernist account, has to be brought into the context of post-structuralist questioning of binary opposites in such a way that I can pressure the historical model, and deconstruct the notion of reading as "a woman." In the last chapter, the idea of a natural, intrinsic image-text alignment is exploded by a re-interrogation of the same works of art in light of modern and postmodern gender theories, and of a thicker description of the conditions in which they were made and used. In this postmodern narrative, gender is revealed as only one of the hegemonies that were essential to some notion of stability in a Christian society beset by disasters; gynephobia was complemented by fear of peasants, lepers, Jews, black Muslims, animals, and monsters.

    Furthermore, the gender binary is not as clear as my modernist account would imply. Female book owners were differentiated according to whether they were expected to procreate or not, posing the problem of another term for the groups of men as well as women who were sterilized by taking orders. And in my determination to distinguish categories of m/f I had overlooked images that are distinctly androgynous, and gestures that evoke same sex desires. Here we encounter a subversive element, seemingly overlooked in the rigidly orchestrated program of heterosexual repression. Only such a lack of agreement can give a purchase on the attitudes that had been naturalized.

    The case-studies presented here, and in a companion book, are intended to be open-ended. The same works can be interrogated from other feminist perspectives by exchanging the theoretical framework; the process is dialogic, since renewed interventions will challenge the interpretations I posit now. And expanding the canon will place current theories in question; it would be particularly welcome to see this work done for Byzantine and early medieval art. The project is an on-going one, that will eventually transform the way all of us view medieval objects.


    Essential Reading for the Introduction: Soundings/Sightings

    Note: This bibliography is divided into two sections: the works in the first are not concerned with medieval women, but they will provide a basic reader for those approaching feminism now; also included are some sources that place feminism in a larger intellectual context. The second section encompasses "historical" studies that may address feminist issues and/or gender.

    I: Feminist "Theory" and Studies of Gender:

    Note: further bibliography for gender theory is found in chapter 4.

    • Alcoff, Linda, "Cultural Feminism versus Poststructuralism: The Identity Crisis in Feminist Theory," Signs 14 (1988): 405-36.
    • Alexander, Jonathan J. G. "Iconography and Ideology: Uncovering Social Meanings in Western Medieval Christian Art." Studies in Iconography 15 (1993): 1-44.
    • Barrett, Michèle. "Ideology and the Cultural Production of Gender." In Feminist Criticism and Social Change: Sex, Class and Race in Literature and Culture , ed. Judith Newton and Deborah Rosenfelt, 65-85. New York: Methuen, 1985.
    • Barrett, Michèle and Phillips, Anne, ed. Destabilizing Theory: Contemporary Feminist Debates . Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992.
    • Beauvoir, Simone de. Le deuxième sexe. Paris: Gallimard, 1949; The Second Sex . Trans. H. M. Parshley. New York: Knopf, 1953.
    • Bloch, Ruth H. "A Culturalist Critique of Trends in Feminist Theory," Contention 2 (1993): 79-106.
    • Boswell, John. "Revolutions, Universals and Sexual Categories." In The New Salmagundi Reader , ed. Robert Boyers and Peggy Boyers, 71-96. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
    • Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity . New York: Routledge, 1990.
    • Donovan, Josephine. Feminist Theory: The Intellectual Traditions of American Feminism . New York: Continuum, 1990.
    • DuBois, Page. Sowing the Body: Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, esp. ch. 1, "To Historicize Psychoanalysis," 7-17.
    • Elam, Diane. Feminism and Deconstruction: Ms. en Abyme . London: Routledge, 1994.
    • Ferrari, Gloria. Figures of Speech (book manuscript, 1992), ch. 4: "The Third Sex," 181-224.
    • Flax, Jane. Thinking Fragments . San Francisco: University of California Press, 1990.
    • Flax, Jane. Disputed Subjects: Essays on Psychoanalysis, Politics and Philosophy . New York: Routledge, 1993.
    • Frye, Marilyn. "The Possibility of Feminist Theory." In Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference , ed. Deborah L. Rhode, 174-84 & 293-94. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
    • Goux, Jean-Joseph. "The Phallus: Masculine Identity and the "Exchange of Women." Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 4 (1992): 40-75.
    • Greenblatt, Stephen, and Giles Gunn. "Introduction." In Redrawing the Boundaries: The Transformation of English and American Literary Studies , ed. Stephen Greenblatt and Giles Gunn, 1-11. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1992.
    • Harris, Andrea L. "The Third Sex: Figures of Inversion in Djuna Barnes's Nightwood." In Eroticism and Containment: Notes from the Flood Plain , ( Genders 20), ed. Carol Siegel and Ann Kibbey, 233-59. New York: New York University Press, 1994.
    • Herdt, Gilbert, ed. Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History . New York: Zone Books, 1993; paperback edition 1996.
    • Isaak, Jo Anna. "Representation and its (dis)contents." Art History 12 (1989): 362-66.
    • Lauretis, Teresa de. [referred to as 1989a] "The Essence of the Triangle or Taking the Risk of Essentialism Seriously: Feminist Theory in Italy, the U.S., and Britain." Differences 1 (summer 1989): 3-37. Reprinted in The Essential Difference , ed. Naomi Schor and Elizabeth Weed, 1-39. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994.
    • Lauretis, Teresa de. [referred to as 1989b] "The violence of rhetoric: Considerations on representation and gender." In The Violence of Representation , ed. Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse, 239-58. London: Routledge, 1989.
    • Martin, Jane Roland. "Methodological Essentialism, False Difference, and Other Dangerous Traps." Signs 19 (1994): 630-57.
    • Middleton, Anne, "Medieval Studies." In Redrawing the Boundaries: The Transformation of English and American Literary Studies , ed. Stephen Greenblatt and Giles Gunn, 12-40. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1992.
    • Mitchell, Juliet. "Four Structures in a Complex Unity." In Liberating Women's History: Theoretical and Critical Essays , ed. Berenice A. Carroll. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1976.
    • Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory . London: Methuen, 1985.
    • Modleski, Tania. Feminism without Women: Culture and Criticism in a 'Postfeminist' Age . New York: Routledge, 1991.
    • Nederman, Cary J. and Jacqui True, "The Third Sex: The Idea of the Hermaphrodite in Twelfth-Century Europe," Journal of the History of Sexuality 6 (1996): 497-517.
    • Offen, Karen, 1990. "Feminism and Sexual Difference in Historical Perspective." In Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference , ed. Deborah L. Rhode, 13-20 & 265-66. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
    • Rhode, Deborah L. "Definitions of Difference." In Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference , ed. Deborah L. Rhode, 263-65 & 294-98. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
    • Roscoe, Will. Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America . New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.
    • Rubin, Gayle. "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the 8216;Political Economy216;Political Economy' of Sex." In Toward an Anthropology of Women , ed. Rayna R. Reiter, 157-210. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975.
    • Sedgwick, Eva Kosofsky. "Gender Criticism." In Redrawing the Boundaries: The Transformation of English and American Literary Studies , ed. Stephen Greenblatt and Giles Gunn, 217 - 302. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1992.
    • Stoller, Robert J. Sex and Gender: On the Development of Masculinity and Femininity. New York: Science House, 1968.

    II: Feminist and "Historical" studies of medieval women and sex/gender arrangements:

    • Anderson, Bonnie S. and Judith P. Zinsser. A History of their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present . Vol. 1. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.
    • Bell, Susan Groag, "Medieval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambasadors of Culture," Signs 7/4 (1982): 742-768 (reprint).
    • Bennett, Judith M., et al., ed. Sisters and Workers in the Middle Ages . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.
    • Bynum, Caroline. "Why all the Fuss about the Body? A Medievalist's Perspective." Critical Inquiry 22 (1995): 1-33.
    • Ennen, Edith. The Medieval Woman . Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989. Originally Frauen im Mittelalter , 1984.
    • Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane, ed. Le moyen âge . Histoire des femmes en occident, vol 2. Series ed. Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot. Paris: Plon, 1990. Translated as Silences of the Middle Ages . History of Women in the West. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.
    • Lochrie, Karma, Peggy McCracken, and James A. Schultz, ed. Constructing Medieval Sexuality. Minneappolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
    • McCash, June Hall, ed. The Cultural Patronage of Medieval Women ., Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.
    • Parsons, John Carmi and Bonnie Wheeler, ed. Medieval Mothering . New York: Garland, 1996.
    • Partner, Nancy F. Studying Medieval Women: Sex, Gender, Feminism . Cambridge, MA: Medieval Academy of America, 1993 (esp. Judith M. Bennett, "Medievalism and Feminism," 7-29, and Kathleen Biddick, "Genders, Bodies, Borders: Technologies of the Visible," 87-116.
    • Power, Eileen. Medieval Women , ed. M. M. Postan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975. Reprinted, 1997.
    • Shahar, Shulamith. The Fourth Estate: A History of Women in the Middle Ages . London: Methuen, 1983.
    • Stuard, Susan Mosher, ed. Women in Medieval History and Historiography . Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.
    • Ziolkowski, Jan M., ed. Obscenity: Social Control and Artistic Creation in the European Middle Ages . Cultures, Beliefs and Traditions, 4. Leiden: Brill, 1998.

    1  Helen Rodnite Lemay, Women's Secrets: A Translation of Pseudo-Albertus Magnus's De Secretis Mulierum with Commentaries (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 106. The text was composed, and commentaries added, by Dominicans in Paris in the last quarter of the thirteenth century, probably to warn monks away from women.

    2  Hélène Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa," trans. Keith and Paula Cohen, in New French Feminisms , ed. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron (New York: Schocken, 1981), 245. Originally, "La Rire de la Méduse," L'Arc 61 (1975).

    3 For other useful reviews and commentaries, see: Bennett and Biddick in Partner; also Pamela Sheingorn, "The Medieval Feminist Art History Project" Medieval Feminist Newsletter 12 (Fall 1991), 5-10, and Norris J. Lacy, "The Medievalist and Feminist Theory," Medieval Feminist Newsletter 18 (Fall, 1994): 9-11. Alexander has usefully synopsized advances in ideology-critique, folding into it some of the best feminist work.

    4 The course, however, is interdisciplinary since it is team-taught with my colleague in German literature and critical theory, Charles Nelson; see: M. H. Caviness and Charles G. Nelson, "Women in Medieval Art and Literature," Medieval Feminist Newsletter 15 (Spring 1993): 17-20. This is now entitled: Medieval Feminist Forum , and it is published by the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship in the U.S.

    5  Benchmark collections provide a kind of historiography: Elaine Showalter, The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature, and Theory (New York: Random House, 1985); Mary Eagleton, ed. & intro., Feminist Literary Criticism (London: Longman, 1991), which reprints important essays by Cixous, Spivak, Kristeva etc., and adds a glossary of terms; Linda L.Nicholson, ed., Feminism/Postmodernism (New York: Routledge, 1990), with essays by Di Stephano, Flax, Butler et al.

    6  The best known study that built on this premise may be that of Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1990), which is discussed in chapter 4.

    7  Feminism prioritizes the study of systems of oppression, with a view to effecting social change.

    8  E. g. Jonathan Culler, On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1982), "Reading as a Woman," 42-64. More nuanced, though no more historical discussions are those of Mary Jacobus, "Is there a Woman in this Text?" and Stephen Heath, "Male Feminism," reprinted in Mary Eagleton, Feminist Literary Criticism (London: Longman, 1991), 171-225.

    9  Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins, tenth anniversary edition (New York: Crossroad, 1983), 56-60, has countered this charge against women's history made by Jacob Neusner, Method and Meaning in Ancient Judaism (Brown Judaic Studies 10; Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1979), 88, 96.

    10  Barbara Ehrenreich, in her preface to Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies I: Women, Floods, Bodies, History , trans. Stephen Conway (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), xv.

    11  Mary Frances Wack, Lovesickness in the Middle Ages: The Viaticum and Its Commentaries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990), 166-67 and 295 n. 60, has substantiated this claim in relation to courtly literature.

    12  Carol Delaney, "The Meaning of Paternity and the Virgin Birth Debate," Man: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute NS 21 (1986): 508-09.

    13  Representations of Amazons, from a fictive ancient world, probably reinforced the taboo against women fighting.

    14  Megan McLaughlin, "The woman warrior: gender, warfare and society in medieval Europe," Women's Studies 17 (1990): 193-209.

    15  Haydon White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), provides useful insights.

    16  Parts of this introduction are expanded from my article: "The Feminist Project: Pressuring the Medieval Object, " Frauen Kunst Wissenschaft , (December 1997): 13-21.

    17  Ernst Gombrich, Meditations on a Hobby Horse and Other Essays on the Theory of Art (London: Phaidon Press, 1963). The first history of art I read, awarded as a school prize in 1956, was his The Story of Art (London: Phaidon Press, 1955), and I remember devouring his Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (London: Phaidon Press, 1960), at one sitting while waiting for surgery. Middleton, 15-21, has captured some of the intellectual excitement of that era.

    18  Michel Foucault, Histoire de sexualité . 3 vols. (Paris, 1976); Robert Hurley, trans., The History of Sexuality (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1985). His archaeology of problematization, as outlined in the first two chapters of vol. 2, The Use of Pleasure , is especially useful as a critique of this kind of writing.

    19  Perhaps his mentioning it at all should be seen as a daring gesture. An eminent German predecessor whom he cites overlooked the boy's toy entirely: Max Geisberg, "Israhel van Meckenem," Print Collectors' Quarterly 1 (1930), 236-37.

    20  Ernst H. Gombrich, Meditations on a Hobby Horse and Other Essays on the Theory of Art (London: Phaidon Books, 1963), 1-11. The passages quoted here are from pp. 4 and 7.

    21  Gombrich, Meditations on a Hobby Horse , 163 n.8, quoting Lewis Spence, Myth and Ritual in Dance, Game, and Rhyme (London: Watts & Co., 1947), 167-70. For the living medieval tradition of menace, abduction and rape by youg men on cock horses, see now Henri Rey-Flaud, Le Charivari: Les Rituels fondamentaux de la Sexualité (Paris: Payot, 1985), 38-42.

    22  Iona and Peter Opie, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 65-66.

    23  Gombrich, Meditations on a Hobby Horse , figs. 3 & 4. The formation of this homoerotic canon has only been examined recently: Alexander Potts, "Winckelmann's Construction of History," Art History 5 (1982): 377-407; and Whitney Davis, "Winckelmann Divided: Mourning the Death of Art History," in Gay and Lesbian Studies in Art History, ed. Whitney Davis (New York: The Haworth Press, 1994), 141-59.

    24  Vasvari in Ziolkowski, 121. Hildegard had called woman a vase: Joan Cadden, "It Takes All Kinds: Sexuality and Gender Differences in Hildegard of Bingen's 'Book of Compound Medicine,'" Traditio 40 (1984): 178.

    25  Reproduced in Françoise Piponnier and Perrine Mane, Se vêtir au Moyen Age (Paris: Adam Biro, 1995), and discussed in terms of dress rather than nudity, 127, fig. 39. For the theology of Christ's genitalia, see: Leo Steinberg, The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and Modern Oblivion , 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), esp. 109-43.

    26  Walter J. Ong, Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1981), esp. 51-96, 129-34.

    27  Mellinkoff, "Riding Backwards: The Theme of Humiliation and Symbol of Evil," Viator 4 (1973): 153-76.

    28  The Encyclopaedia Britanica traces hobby to the Olde French hobin; French dictionaries confirm the use for "un petit cheval qui va à l'amble."

    29  Van Wyck Brooks, trans., The Intimate Journals of Paul Gauguin (London: William Heinemann, 1930), 22. Cited in part by Abigail Solomon-Godeau, "Going Native: Paul Gauguin and the Invention of Primitivist Modernism," reprinted in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, ed. Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 317, from Robert Goldwater, Primitivism in Modern Painting (New York, London: Harper & Brothers, 1938), 60: the last reference is to "the good old wooden horse," not rocking horse.

    30  Yet I cannot agree with one of my critics that I "see penises everywhere:" John Baldwin, was speaking as respondent to the papers in a session on medieval women organized by Paula Gerson and Pamela Sheingorn at Kalamazoo in 1995, as part of the Medieval Feminist Project. The compliment was quite gratuitous, since I had not given a paper. I was tempted to reply that I should be so lucky, since I much more often seem to encounter pricks.

    31  Louise O. Vasvari, "Fowl Play in My Lady's Chamber: Textual Harassmenr of a Middle English Pornithological Riddle and Visual Pun," in Ziolkowski, 108-35.

    32  Marina Warner, Alone of All her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (New York: Vintage Books, 1983). First published 1976.

    33  For a kneeling female praying to St. Margaret/Agatha, see Caviness, Visualizing Medieval Women, fig. 37; c.f. also figs. 38, 40, 43 for the torture of these saints.

    34  Caviness in June Hall McCash, ed., The Cultural Patronage of Medieval Women (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996), pp. 111, 133; the Ingeborg Psalter may shortly pre-date the 1205 injunction, but the representation in the Chartres window coincides with it: Colette Deremble-Manhes, Les narratifs de la cathédrale de Chartres: étude iconographique . Corpus Vitrearum, France, Études, vol. 2 (Paris: Léopard d'or, 1993), 368-69, no. 46.

    35  Deremble, 1993, as in the previous note: Early in her life Mary Magdalene plays the role of mourner and repentant sinner, placed below or to the left of other more prominent figures (scenes 4-8); even when she preaches to the deciples they take center stage (13-14), and when she takes the word to Provence, Bishop Maximin preaches it in the center of the window (15-16).

    36  Christine Di Stefano, Configurations of Masculinity: A Feminist Perspective on Modern Political Theory (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1991), 105-43, has posited psychoanalytic object relations theory as an "explanation" for Marx's blind spot. A critique is also offered by Mia Campioni and Elizabeth Grosz, "Love's Labours Lost: Marxism and Feminism," in Beyond Marxism? Interventions after Marx , ed. Judith Allen and Paul Patton (Surrey Hills, NSW: Interventions, 1983), 112-41

    37  As did: Jeffrey T. Nealon, "The Discipline of Deconstruction," Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 107 (1992): 1269. Elam, especially in chapter 3, brings deconstructive terms to bear on feminism as it was then rather narrowly defined in order to demonstrate its ethical failures.

    38  Even though Sedgewick lays this out very clearly, she does not critique the binary understanding of gender; rather, she goes on to separate sex and gender from notions of sexuality that encompass a variety of sexual orientations (281-95).

    39  Margaret Mead, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies , 3rd. ed. (New York: William Morrow, 1963), i, ix. Marilyn Strathern, The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), has traced the terminology of difference among anthropologists: "The 8216;Social Construction216;Social Construction' of Male and Female," 70-76, and 351 n. 1.

    40  John Money, J. G. Hampson and J. L. Hampson, "Imprinting and the Establishment of Gender Role," Archives of Neuroogy and Psychiatry 77 (1957): 333-36. Money's subsequent work centered on the gender roles of transsexuals, e.g. Richard Green and John Money eds. Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969).

    41  Recent studies set aside such imperatives, while confirming that the assignation of male/female sexual status is itself a powerful force in modifying the attitudes of others to the subject, thereby constructing gender identity: e.g., the chapters by Florence L. Geis, Susan E. Cross and Hazel Rose Markus, and Bernice Lott and Diane Maluso as Part I "Gender in Thought and Action," in The Psychology of Gender , ed. Anne E. Beall and Robert J. Sternberg (New York: Guilford Press, 1993), 9-123.

    42  Ann Oakley, Sex, Gender and Society (London: Temple Smith, 1972), was a precursor. See also: C. MacCormack and M. Strathern, ed., Nature, Culture and Gender (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980); Sherry B. Ortner and Harriet Whitehead, ed., Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); Ruth Bleier, Science and Gender: A Critique of Biology and its Theories of Women (New York: Pergamon Press, c. 1984); Linda J. Nicholson, Gender and History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986); Bynum et al., ed., Gender and Religion, 1986 (cited in full, n. 41 above); Nancy K. Miller, ed., The Poetics of Gender (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986); Beth B. Hess and Myra Marx Ferree, ed., Analyzing Gender: A Handbook of Social Science Research (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1987); J. F. Collier and S. J. Yanagisako, ed., Gender and Kinship: Essays Toward a Unified Analysis (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987); Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Deceptive Distinctions: Sex, Gender, and the Social Order (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988); Joan W. Scott, "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis," The American Historical Review 91 (1986): 1053-75, and Scott, 1988; Jill K.Conway, Susan C. Bourque and Joan W. Scott, ed., Learning about Women: Gender, Politics and Power (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989); Elaine Showalter, ed., Speaking of Gender (New York: Routledge, 1989); Rachel T. Hare-Mustin and Jeanne Marecek, ed., Making a Difference: Psychology and the Construction of Gender (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990); Linda S. Kauffman, Discourses of Desire: Gender, Genre and Epistolary Fictions (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991). The journal m/f was founded in 1978, Genders in 1988, and both Gender and History and Differences in 1989.

    43  See also Gayle Rubin, "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality," in Pleasure and Danger , ed. Carole S. Vance (New York: Routledge, 1984), 267-319.

    44  Stephen R. Graubard, Preface to Learning about Women: Gender, Politics, and Power , ed. Jill S. Conway, Susan C. Bourque, and Joan W. Scott (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992), vii-ix. Other essays in this reprinted volume address the history of the treatment of women in specific disciplines or professions, skirting the theoretical issue of gender.

    45  Such claims have been monitored and protested by Susan Jeffords, The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1989), 105-07, who refers to: Zoe Safia, "Exterminating Fetuses: Abortion, Disarmament, and the Sexo-Semiotics of Extra-terrestrialism," Diacritics 14/2 (summer 1984): 51.

    46  Donovan, however, structured her informative historical overview around the opposing notions of "cultural" and "radical." Placing them in opposition might be seen as a reiteration of structuralism.

    47 She also provides a useful discussion of Alcoff.

    48  As this book goes to "press," another account of the status of women's studies and feminisms has appeared: 54 op-ed. pieces by leading feminists are prefaced by Judith A. Howard and Carolyn Allen in Signs 25 number 4 (Summer 2000).

    49 Boswell's essay introduces the problem of the heterosexual imperative that operated in historians' traditional quest for reality, by pointing out a recent shift toward a more "nominalist" position that assumes that "the 8216;order216;order' people see is their creation rather than their perception" (Boswell, 71-7).

    50  Emily Apter, Feminizing the Fetish: Psychoanalysis and Narrative Obsession in Turn-of-the-Century France (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), ix.

    51  Traditional iconographers found perfect agreement between art and theology in the middle ages: e.g., Emile Mâle, The Gothic Image , trans. Dora Nussey (New York: Harper, 1958, repr. 1972). First published as L'Art religieux du treizième siècle en France (Paris: Armand Colin, 1958); and Erwin Panofsky, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism (Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1957).

    52  Classic studies of the social unrest surrounding the building of the cathedrals are those of Jane Williams, Bread, Wine and Money: The Windows of the Trades at Chartres Cathedral (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1993); and Barbara Abou-el-Haj, "The Urban setting for Late Medieval Church Building: Rheims and its Cathedral between 1210 and 1240," Art History 11 (1988): 17-41.

    53  Myra Jehlen, "Archimedes and the Paradox of Feminist Criticism," in Feminisms: An anthology of literary theory and criticism , ed. Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndl (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991), 95.

    54  Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, "Sexual Linguistics: Gender, Language, Sexuality" in The Feminist Reader: Essays in Gender and the Politics of Literary Criticism, ed. Catherine Belsey and Jane Moore (New York: Blackwell, 1989), 98: they stress "the continuity between what has to be (that is, what is physically determined) and what has been (that is, what is culturally determined.".

    55 De Beauvoir, xviii, however suggests women have been so defined by men: "Why is it that women do not dispute male sovereignty? No subject will readily volunteer to become the object, the inessential; it is not the Other who, in defining himself as the Other, establishes the One. The Other is posed as such by the One in defining himself as the One." One revisionist did try to claim the first sex for women, on the basis of the argument that matriarchies pre-dated patriarchy and the male gods, but neither the term nor the theory has had much acceptance: Elizabeth Gould Davis, The First Sex (New York: Putnam's, 1971). Her discussion of "penis envy versus womb envy," however, is well supported (pp. 150-57), as is the view that women in western Europe gradually lost the privileges they had in the early middle ages.

    56  A conflation of sex with gender (of male with masculine, female with feminine) has arisen, and not only in popular parlance. See Judith Butler, "Against Proper Objects," Differences 6/2-3 (1994), 1-7. Other literature is discussed in chapter four.