Discourse of Enclosure: Representing Women in Old English Literature (SUNY Series in Medieval Studies)

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9780791450093: Discourse of Enclosure: Representing Women in Old English Literature (SUNY Series in Medieval Studies)

The enclosure of women, whether literally in monastic establishments or socially by marriage and convention, strongly influenced the female subjects and authors of Old English literature. Horner's interesting study examines the restriction of women and the forces that enclosed them in a wide range of texts, including Beowulf , elegies, female lyrics and Saints' Lives. She also looks at the ways in which female heroines, victims and authors could struggle against their lot and examines the relationship between textual and bodily violence.

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Exploring Old English texts ranging from Beowulf to Ælfric's Lives of Saints, this book examines ways that women's monastic, material, and devotional practices in Anglo-Saxon England shaped literary representations of women and femininity. Horner argues that these representations derive from a "discourse" of female monastic enclosure, based on the increasingly strict rules of cloistered confinement that regulated the female religious body in the early Middle Ages. She shows that the female subjects of much Old English literature are enclosed by many layers-literal and figurative, textual, material, discursive, spatial-all of which image and reinforce the powerful institutions imposed by the Church on the female body. Though it has long been recognized that medieval religious women were enclosed, and that virginity was highly valued, this book is the first to consider the interrelationships of these two positions-that is, how the material practices of female monasticism inform the textual operations of Old English literature.

About the Author:

Shari Horner is Assistant Professor of English at Shippensburg University.

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