Forces of Nature: Liberating Women in the Middle Ages
In 1361, Boccaccio began compiling the first collection of biographies in post-classical Western literature devoted exclusively to women, De mulieribus claribus (On Famous Women). The work has often been regarded as a milestone in attitudes toward women in the Middle Ages, a period much maligned for its misogyny. As early as the twelfth century, however, debates over the very nature of the female body call for a more nuanced understanding of medieval womanhood, a topic which this panel will engage by focusing on writings by and/or about medieval women within Western Europe, historical and/or fictional, religious and/or secular. In doing so, this session will provide a window onto what remains an overlooked tradition. Did the historical circumstances of Boccaccio’s famous work mark the beginning of the querelle des femmes or the end of an unwritten chapter?
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