[LITERATURE] [VISUAL ARTS] [THEATRE, DANCE, AND MUSIC] [BIOGRAPHIES]
Women, like men, wrote when they could. There was no international feminist identity, so Hildegarde of Bingen and Christine de Pisane were almost alone as women writing about the condition of women (Gies and Gies, Women 9-10). Most women's writing was about their lives or is found in letters. However, in the French court of Countess Marie de Champagne, poetesses like Marie de France abounded (Rowling 83). Women's portrayal in literature is often more revealing.
In Christian personification allegories, abstract virtues are often personified as women. Though vices, too, are women, the success or failure of the character is dependent not on its sex but on its characteristics as a person (Fries 49-50).
A woman of more misogynistic origins is found in the fabliaux, short tales usually drawing on scatological jokes for laughter. Fabliaux women embody all the negative qualities females are accused of: deceit, spite, materialism, vanity, to name a few.
In keeping with the cult of the and the related outbreak of courtly love, the idealized woman lover is present in the medieval romances. She usually remains chaste, whatever the temptation or threat, and is obedient to her lord come what may -- whether he is right or wrong. She embodies all female virtues. She, like the fabliaux woman, is also a stereotype -- but then, so are most characters in medieval writing (50-1).
There was a strong tradition of the visual arts in medieval monastic life. Though monks are typically associated with manuscript illumination, nuns also worked as painters and sculptors. In the early Middle Ages, most female artists were monastics; later, many of them were professionals. Almost all art was religion-oriented. Secular women continued the convent tradition when they worked as illuminators. Often a male illuminator would rely on his female relatives for help, but, as in other trades, women were often established independently.
THEATRE, DANCE, AND MUSIC
During the Middle Ages, theatrical troups were groups of traveling players who went from one town to the next, putting on plays of myths and Bible stories and entertaining with variety acts as well. If women were included in these groups, they were ostracised by town dwellers, as most itinerant entertainers were. "Masterless" men and women were considered a moral, if not a physical, threat to the community. Most female muscians and actors had to work as travelling performers, ostracised from and sometimes persecuted by society (Uitz 100).
Dancing was condemned by the Church because it had pagan origins and because it distracted people from Christian worship. Nevertheless, dancing was a popular pastime for all classes. A peasant woman would lead a village dance, marking time by the ringing of a small bell (Rowling 90).
|Christine de Pisan was the major feminist influence in the middle ages. Here, she presents her patroness with a book of her poetry. To find out more about specific women in literature and the arts, click on the picture.|
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