"When Female Weakness Triumphs:" Shadow Feminism in the Early Middle Ages
Sutor, Sarah Anne-Marie
In the early Middle Ages, women commonly faced violence in a myriad of forms, including rape, torture, and enclosure. In response to this violence, women, especially saints and martyrs, often passively accepted pain and/or committed self-violence. Past scholarship has tended to focus on either the religious nature of martyrdom or the gendered victimization of these women. Employing theory from Third Wave Feminism and Queer Theory, particularly Judith Halberstam's theory of Shadow Feminism, this thesis suggests an alternate reading of Anglo-Saxon and Early Germanic works by Bede, Cynewulf, and Hrotsvit of Gandersheim. Particularly, early medieval women's masochism and passivity are reinterpreted as a radical and desperate means of subverting religious and secular heteronormative power. Chapter one addresses how the re-victimization of early medieval women through theory and textual interpretation has led to my reexamination of these texts. Chapter two discusses the many ways Anglo-Saxon women were queered. Chapters three and four work as a pair by first introducing theory by Judith Halberstam, Leo Bersani, and Elaine Scarry and then applying it to literature.
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