Wykked Wyves and the Woes of Marriage

Misogamous Literature from Juvenal to Chaucer

Edited by Katharina M. Wilson & Elizabeth M. Makowski

Subjects: Medieval Studies, Literature, Biography, Political Science
Series: SUNY series in Medieval Studies
Paperback : 9780791400630, 206 pages, August 1990
Hardcover : 9780791400623, 206 pages, September 1990

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Table of contents



I. Classical Antecedents


Marriage law and custom in Imperial Rome
Misogyny and mirth: Juvenal's Sixth Satire as prototype


II. Ascetic Misogamy


Eschatology, dualism, and virginity in the patrisitc period
St. Jerome's Adversus Jovinianum as radical critique


III. Philosophic Misogamy


The great and lesser silence: The reemergence of anti-marriage literature in the twelfth century
Secularism and satire in the work of Abelard, John of Salisbury, Walter Map, Hugh of Folietto, Peter of Blois, and Andreas Fieschi


IV. General Misogamy


Canon Law, comedy, and clausura in the late Middle Ages
Wykked Wyves: A tradition reasserted in De conjuge non ducenda, Quinze joies de mariage, and the Wife of Bath's "Prologue"



Abbreviations of Frequently Cited Works



Analysis of the literature demonstrates a link between the growing secularism and careerism of the late middle ages and the reduction of women’s social status and public options.


The distrust and hatred of matrimony is a recurring theme in Western literature. In this volume, Wilson and Makowski show that in their repeated imagery, continuous themes, and rhetorical devices, misogamous texts closely parallel and reflect economic and demographic shifts, and theological and legal innovation. Analysis of the literature demonstrates a link between the growing secularism and careerism of the late middle ages and the reduction of women's social status and public options.

Katharina M. Wilson is Associate Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia. Elizabeth M. Makowski is in the Department of History at Columbia University.


"The chief virtue of the study is that it makes accessible for the first time a huge and miscellaneous tradition which is absolutely crucial to medieval scholarship and to both medieval and general feminist studies. Because it is focused on texts, meticulously paraphrasing them, it provides a lucid witness to the facts of the tradition, to the prevailing winds of influence, and to the shifts in the tradition as the writer fits it to his personal cultural agendas. It is impressively researched and the logic of its historic and literary analysis is so impeccable that the contrast between pristine method and nasty content is sometimes delightful. " — Elizabeth P. Armstrong, University of Cincinnati