Manual Clothes Make the Man: Female Cross Dressing in Medieval Europe: 1 (New Middle Ages)

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And they themselves are often famished with hunger, and wretched with the miseries of winter. The miseries of these women who dwell in hovels are too pitiful to read, or describe in verse. We can see such women in the margins of manuscripts, such as the Luttrell Psalter or the Tres Riches Heure s, and sculpted upon the misericords of abbey churches, such as those at Malvern and Westminster as wielding their distaves as weapons belaboring men. We can guess at their folk culture, their oral telling of tales, their secularity, in the world of time, now silenced because it was not committed by pen to parchment.

In this secular and visual sphere is an explosion of color. We can piece together its cloth and its embroidery, its laughter and its tears. Similarly did the Anglo-Saxon women chronicle rape and arson against themselves within the Bayeux Tapestry. Juxtaposed to their visible silence is the world in which women from the past can be heard as well as seen. That is the world of cloistered nuns in black and white, who write and who sing, composing both Latin books and Gregorian chant. In this book we have pieced together parts of the history of medieval women from what records are available in textile and in text.

The vivid colors of the one spelt mortality, the black and white severity of the other their eternity. The monastic world is a textual comunity, to use Brian Stock's term, which transcends time. Strangely, the Inquisition's records of medieval Montaillou give us similar glimpses into women's lives - of the petty nobility and of the peasantry - allowing them to be heard as well as seen - and it is significant that these are texts about heretics, the Inquisition's records of a Cathar community, written in Latin legal prose, translating from the oral langue d'oc which it was to destroy.

Both Cathars and Lollards were non-hierarchical, allowing these portraits of women to become inscribed in black and red in literate male texts. In the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the Cathars, like the Jews, were to be put to the sword and the flame in genocidal pogroms.


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In the fifteenth century the Lollard followers of John Wyclif, including women, were to be burned at the stake, to be followed in the Renaissance and later by the burning of witches - which was not a medieval phenomenon. The universities, which imitated Greek and Islamic centers of learning in denying women access to formal education, increasingly imposed their dogma upon Christendom and trained theologians to be Inquisitors. These men, paradoxically, stamped out heresy, using what had once been heretical, the pagan philosophy of Aristotle, as their instrument, and by its means they persecuted the marginal "other" who lacked their access to power, whether these were Jewish or Muslim who had paradoxically been the translators and preservers of Aristotle's texts , Cathar or Waldensian, Wycliffite or Hussite.

Being of the other gender, as with being of another race or creed, likewise could render one victim to this rigid machinery for monoculturalism set into motion by the universities.

Later the Reformation would succeed where the earlier heresies had failed. It may have succeeded because of the Inquisition's excesses. But women were not to be permitted a presence in the universities until our century. Nor could they enter now the dissolved convents of the Protestant regions. Men won. Women lost. In the halcyon days before the storm, however, men like Wyclif and Hus, associated with Oxford and Charles Universities, in England and in Czechoslovakia, were able to use their academic positions from which to challenge hierarchies, proposing a return to Gospel egalitarianism with such proto-Marxist movements as the Great Society and the Peasants' Revolt.

England, as a result, produced a great flowering of vernacular literature for the laity and for women - a literature in which women's treble tones were definitely heard along with men's bass voices. Thus Chaucer could permit his Wife of Bath and his Prioress of Stratford to tell their sermons and fables, their "old wives' tales" I Timothy 4. Yet the women's voices found in these vernacular texts were, for the most part, written by men, as it were, in a literary cross dressing, a textual transvestism, that was to continue through time.

Medieval Studies and Feminist Studies can converge, the first being the second's "Distant Mirror," explaining present problems through past paradigm shifts, deriving theory from praxis. In history we have both historiographers and cliometricians, some, like Natalie Zemon Davis looking at readership, some, like Susan Stuard, looking at women slaves.

Renaissance Clothing and Sumptaury Laws

In literature, at last, we are permitted to examine texts in their contexts, bringing fact to bear upon fiction, history upon fantasy, linking praxis and theory. Marxist Feminist approaches can be of value, letting us see the world of the folk as well as that of authority. But more work needs to done with anorexia - once practiced by Egyptian Desert Fathers, then by St.

Francis, and more recently by Gandhi and imprisoned Irish terrorists thus by no means being an exclusively female complaint - seeing it instead as a bitter political mirroring back to the oppressor of that denial of power, and even life, to the oppressed. To view medieval Christianity as a syncretic religion, seeing, for instance, the use of the Isis Lactans motif in the powerful cult statues of the Virgin nursing the Child through time, Isis being associated with writing, could benefit scholarship. Latin's allegorical abstractions are grammatically feminine in gender and therefore required women for their personifications - for instance Grammatica herself and her sisterhood, and we see these powerful, and often frightening, personifications run rife in the texts of Boethius and Langland.

In these texts gender and sexuality, women's presence - because of our absence - become an important - and often negative - semiotic coding of threatening dyads and binary polarities. Paradoxically, though Greeks suppressed women, the Parthenon was dedicated to the Virgin Athena; though the Gothic period treated women unequally, Chartres was built to the Virgin Mary; though women were denied entrance to the universities, the allegorical figures for learning and education were of women, Dame Grammar, Lady Philosophy, and the Queen of Sciences, Theology.

For there was the further and deeper and now forgotten paradox that this literacy conveyed a theology whose central tenet was of the Word made Flesh, of a mother and a child, a human bonding it did everything to prevent. The answer is for women to reenter the worlds of the self and the book, coming to see at the ending of, for instance, Dante's quest and pilgrimage upon which he is guided by the wisdom of the Sibylline Beatrice, an incomparable Celestial Rose.

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That Rose of white and gold, mirror-reversing and echoing the Roman de la Rose 's scarlet one, includes in its mandala women who are equal in number, weight and measure with men, where all are equally in the image of God who, Dante states, appears as if painted in our image and who mirror writes with Dante, and then, Christine, and now, ourselves, the book we hold and read.

Elaine Scarry Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, ; books, like mandalas, are powerful symbols of the relationship of the self, the body, with the cosmos, the soul. Muckle, C. Betty Radice Harmondsworth: Penguin, , p. Julian N. Havelock, Preface to Plato Cambridge, Mass.

Jerome's Attitude to Women. Leo Sherly Price, rev. Latham, ed. Erler, and Kowaleski, pp. Mitchell A.

Yde et Olive

However, we witness the indulgence of a merchant father listing in his account book a golden florin fresh from the mint for his daughter Ginevra to give to her mistress, "who teaches her to read," Iris Origo, The Merchant of Prato Penguin: Harmondsworth, , p. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man" 1 Corinthians And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church" For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church" Ephesians 5.

He also powerfully contradicted himself: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female" Galatians 3. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife" 1 Corinthians 7. When she begins with uncertain hand to use the pen, either let another hand be put over hers or else have the letters marked on the tablet.

Let her every day repeat to you a portion of the Scriptures as her fixed task. Instead of jewels or silk let her love the manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures, and in them let her prefer correctness and accurate arrangments to gilding and Babylonian parchment with elaborate decorations.

Let her learn the Psalter first, with these songs let her distract herself, and then let her learn the lessons of life in the Proverbs of Solomon. Let her then pass on to the Gospels and never lay them down. Woman the work of man," "Homo enim plenum opus Dei est. Femina enim opus viri est," of Hildegard of Bingen to the egalitarianism espoused by St.

Catherine of Siena's Christ: "In my sight there is not man nor woman, not learned nor unlearned. Women anthropologists make similar observations concerning Afghan culture which is male-dominated, where girl babies are unwanted, neglected and thus subject to high mortality, and where the women resort to episodes of extreme hysteria to get attention. Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, , discusses hallucinations as an aspect of the bicameral mind - before literacy.

Migne, Betty Radice, p. Related to this material are the three Fates, the Celtic maiden, bride and crone, the three Marys at the Tomb, the three Norns, the three queens at Arthur's death, the three witches of Macbeth. Larry D. It featured sleeves tight to the elbow with hanging streamers or tippets. The tight fit was achieved with lacing or buttons.

Part I - Sumptuary Laws in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

This style faded rapidly from fashion in favor of the houppelande, a full robe with a high collar and wide sleeves that had become fashionable around and remained so to midth century. The bag sleeve was sometimes slashed in the front to allow the lower arm to reach through. Around , the dress of northern Europe developed a low V-neck that showed a glimpse of the square-necked kirtle. The neckline could be filled in with a sheer linen partlet.


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  6. Wide turn-backs like revers displayed a contrasting lining, frequently of fur or black velvet, and the sleeves might be cuffed to match. Sleeves were very long, covering half of the hand, and often highly decorated with embroidery. Fine sleeves were often transferred from one dress to another. In Italy, the low scoop-neck of the early decades gave way to a neckline that was high in front with a lower V-neck at the back at midth century.

    This was followed by a V-neckline that displayed the kirtle or gamurra sometimes spelled camorra. Sleeveless overdresses such as the cioppa were popular, and the gamurra sleeves displayed were often of rich figured silks. A lighter-weight underdress for summer wear was the cotta.

    A sideless overdress called the giornea was worn with the gamurra or cotta. Toward the end of the period, sleeves were made in sections or panels and slashed, allowing the full chemise sleeves below to be pulled through in puffs along the arm, at the shoulder, and at the elbow.