Monday, March 27, 2006

New course...and the kiddos

Today was the first class back from spring break and most of my students were nicely tanned and summery looking. My skin, on the other hand, looks like the color of old newspapers - but it won't be that way forever.

Here's a highly abridged list of where some of my students went for Spring Break: Hawaii; Belize; Mexico (many locations there); Puerto Rico; Switzerland (!); and Jamaica. They were actually fantastic today with the text we were looking at - I was a little manic/rusty for some reason (tending towards babbling), but I think it was low blood sugar.

So, I'm creating a new course for next year and I wonder if anyone has any suggestions - I'm teaching a highly interdisciplinary class on representations of the female body in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. But, I also need to incorporate a lot of contemporary material and it's not a strictly literature course. SO, I'm looking at Art History as well as historical materials (neither of which is my field) and modern criticism/theory on the female body (of course) but also on representation of the feminine and specifically on the way the female form is depicted as either "tortured" or "revered" (those are the two, seemingly but not really, contradictory representations I'm focusing on in the course). Someone actually suggested that looking at something like one of the modern extreme make-over shows (i.e., plastic surgery - The Swan?) would be an interesting contemporary riff on that.

Does anyone have any "don't leave this out" texts/images they can think of that I might use in a course like this? I will be researching this a ton over the summer myself - but I thought I might send out a feeler now. I'm so jazzed about this - it's a complete challenge methodologically, but medieval and Early Modern women are near and dear to my work and my heart!

Must go translate Anglo-Saxon now...

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14 Comments:

At 4:14 PM, Anonymous morganlf said...

So I'm working with Henryson's Testament of Cresseid and there's an awesome article called "'Abject Odious': Feminine and Masculine in Henryson's Testament of Cresseid" by Felicity Riddy. At the beginning of the article (which I don't have in front of me or I'd just give you the citation) she mentions an Early Modern painting that sounds like it would work really well for your class. When I get home tonight I'll look it up.

 
At 4:34 PM, Blogger medieval woman said...

That's sounds cool! I do love the Testament of Cresseid (I'm teaching it this semester in fact) and I'm not familiar with that article. But I hadn't considered looking at the character of Criseyde as a perfect representation of that crazy medieval/EM morphing that can take place: first she's a hottie in the window then she's a leper (sorry, sufferer of Hansen's disease as one of my students pointed out) and her body is destroyed. There was also an obscure study titled like "Criseyde through the Ages" or something. It's all about her classical to modern incarnations.

I would love to get that EM pic citation!

Are you looking at gender in Henryson?

 
At 4:43 PM, Blogger Dr. Virago said...

I imagine you've already thought of this, but virgin-martyr legends are a must. And you can go into the Protestant martyrologies with that. But you may not have thought of pairing them with slasher/horror films! The "Final Girl" is, of course, always a virgin.

Oh, and there's a comic book version of hagiography called "The Big Book of Martyrs." Or, if you want to be more conventional, you could look at the iconography of saints -- which usually only hints at the torture they suffered, and focuses on them in their revered state -- in conjunction with the lives, which tend to revel in the gore.

 
At 7:24 PM, Blogger Bardiac said...

I'm doing a course on the body next year, looks like, though not specifically medieval or early modern, but I'm sure I'll get some in there!

If you're looking for modern art work or plastic surgery stuff, do you know Orlan's performance art?

Also, have you thought about using stuff from the Body Works exhibit?

Good luck on it, sounds fascinating!

 
At 9:47 PM, Blogger medieval woman said...

Thanks for the great ideas!

Dr. V - I am definitely planning on doing a "unit" of some sort on virgin martyrs, but I didn't know a thing about the iconography (particularly not the reverence over torture). I'm also thinking of doing a section on the Renaissance blazon - the metaphorical "cutting up" and praise of the body. I dig the pop culture sources - that's guaranteed to keep some butts in the seats. Did you know there is a comic book version of Beowulf? Complete with a busty love interest for the hero...

Bardiac - your course sounds great - I will definitely look into the performance art - is the "Body" exhibit the anatomical one with the real bodies? I saw something on that - looks awesome...

 
At 10:31 PM, Anonymous Laustic said...

Your course sounds fantastic! Given some time, I could probably come up with a number of purely medieval suggestions, since I'm perversely attracted to the whole "bodies in pain" thing. Off the top of my head, though, I'd recommend Rutebeuf's Mary the Egyptian, possibly paired with the 5th century Latin life of the same saint. Rutebeuf's poem can be found translated (and sadly, excerpted) in Brigitte Cazelles' _Lady As Saint_. And I have taught Mary of Egypt's Latin life from a really good Broadview anthology: _Medieval Saints: A Reader_ edited by Mary-Ann Stouck. In the same collection, you might also think about including the life of Christina Mirabilis. Talk about a tortured woman: she bakes herself in an oven, holds herself under water, etc. Finally, Robert Mills' new book, _Suspended Animation: Pain, Pleasure & Punishment in Medieval Culture_ might also interest you. I just got my copy this past weekend, so I can't offer much of a synopsis right now. Mills' work never fails to impress me though.

Also, to answer your question from my blog: we were married on New Year's Eve. So I feel like a very "new" wife. :)


And I'll post an update about the HoF reception after class tomorrow morning. The translation made me queasy, so I've only prepared the ME. Eep!

 
At 10:56 PM, Blogger Lisa Spangenberg said...

Possibly the business about the Anchoress in Ancrene Wisse being "black but comely" with the connections to Canticles . . . images of Hellmouth in mss. that look strikingly like female gentalia . . the presence of Sheela-na-gig's on church doors . . .

 
At 11:08 PM, Blogger medieval woman said...

Laustic - congrats, "new" wife! It's a fun thing...

Thank you for the 2 sts' lives - I'd never heard of them! I teach the usual suspects from Bokenham and the Katherine group (Margaret, Katherine, etc.) - these sound great.

I will also definitely check out the Mills book - I'm on the lookout for some criticism/theory. I know Elaine Scarry (sp?) is a big torture scholar and I was thinking of some Foucault? I'm so glad I have plenty of time to plan this - I'm not sure whether I'm teaching it in the Spring or Fall, but at least it's after summer...

Lisa - many of the mouth of hell images are definitely "vaginal" - I'm going to start keeping a running list...

I'm also intrigued: what's a Sheela-na-gig? Celtic?

 
At 3:19 AM, Anonymous morganlf said...

Alright. I'm finally back home. The painting I mentioned earlier is Les Amants Trepasses.

Criseyde would be an interesting person to work with since there is so much material on her. I'm looking at gender in Henryson, but moreso how the narrator sculpts things in the text.

Another poem that would be interesting to look at would be Dame Sirith from Digby 86. It's a great fabliau that doesn't get much notice, sadly.

Oh, and if you're up for O.E. stuff, Judith and Juliana are awesome to work with for an interesting take on femininity.

 
At 3:27 AM, Anonymous Sharon said...

For the Renaissance period, there's plenty of late 16th/early 17th century material (and secondary literature) on cases of demonic possession. I'm thinking particularly of the case of Mary Glover at the beginning of the 17th century, which caused a controversy about whether she was 'really' possessed or was afflicted with 'suffocation of the mother' (hysteria). The eyewitness account of her sufferings is an astonishing read, while the opposing medical tract is regarded as an important early psychiatric text. Even better, there's a modern edition of the key texts, edited by Michael Macdonald, _Witchcraft and hysteria in Elizabethan London_.

By the way, I'd argue that (in the early modern period) it's not a case of being either tortured or revered, given the cult (for want of a better word) of martyrdom following the Reformation. The tortured bodies of (protestant and catholic) martyrs are revered for their suffering for the cause, and that can be especially highlighted with women since they're supposed to be the 'weaker' sex. Anne Askew in the Book of Martyrs is a classic example but there are many more. (There's now a searchable scholarly online edition of Foxe's book at http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/foxe/) If I remember rightly, there's more than a hint of the same thing going on in the account of Mary Glover's possession.

 
At 11:25 PM, Blogger medieval woman said...

Thanks for the great info, guys - morganlf: that picture is crazy!

Sharon: thanks for the Renaissance info - that will give me a great start on a period that I'm not as familiar with.

 
At 6:03 PM, Blogger writesgood said...

I'm doing some artwork and writing pertaining to the virgin martyrs, and I'd like to find a book with artwork and plates I can scan. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Alex

 
At 6:36 PM, Blogger medieval woman said...

Hi Alex,

I'm not personally familiar with any texts, but I just did a quick search and found these:

George Kaftal, _Iconography of the saints in the painting of north east Italy_ (1978)

Hans Belting, _Likeness and presence: a history of the image before the era of art_ (1994).

Also, Dr. Virago might have some more specific suggestions - good luck! Could you let me know if you find anything else cool? I'm on the lookout for my female body class...

 
At 4:47 PM, Blogger writesgood said...

I really appreciate the sources.

Is Dr. Virago likely to check here, or should I ask directly?

Thanks!

 

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