Those interested in both the present day role of woman and its historical evolution will find this work an informative and valuable introduction to the topic. Focusing on the actual position woman held in medieval society and on the surprisingly diverse representations of her position in literature and the visual arts, the six essays collected in this volume reflect concern with the development of her role from classical antiquity and oral, illiterative communities on the one hand, to Renaissance society on the other. Specialists in different fields examine the complexities of topics such as the direct relationship between the longevity of woman and the value society confers upon her; the changing functions of woman in illiterate, pre-literate, and literate society; the sophisticated portrayal of woman in the courtly romances; the implications of man's perception of woman as aesthetic and personal ideal bridging seemingly irreconcilable conflicts; woman's conscious assumption of an active role in the political and cultural life of her time; and the often caricatured, yet nonetheless sympathetic portrayal of woman in the margins of gothic manuscripts.
The interdisciplinary approach followed in these essays allows the reader interested in a wholistic approach to trace concurrent developments over a long span of time from various perspectives. The approach also invites the attention of specialists in medieval social history, economics, art history, the heroic epic and the courtly romance, Petrarchism, and the transition from late medieval to early French Renaissance literature. The essays represent papers delivered at the Sixth Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies on The Role of the Woman in the Middle Ages.
Rosmarie Thee Morewedge, the editor of this collection and Coordinator of the Sixth Annual Conference, is Assistant Professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures at the State University of New York at Binghamton.