SCHOOLGIRL GRAMMAR: GENDER AND LITERACY IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES
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This dissertation examines girls’ and women’s experience of gender in education and literary culture in the early middle ages. I argue that women’s writing in the seventh to eleventh centuries was an ordinary though now poorly recognized extension of the wide participation by girls and women in the use and transmission of literate Christian learning. This project helps to historicize the notion of literacy as a technology of power, as I demonstrate that women’s literate activity in monastic and court life existed concurrently with their social and political subordination to men. In contrast to prevailing assumptions, I argue that access to literacy was not gendered, and that literacy held no particular association with male gender for early medieval readers and writers. Chapter one explores how literacy pedagogies and elementary schooltexts such as the psalms shaped readers’ and writers’ later negotiations between grammatical gender and social gender in literature beyond the classroom. Chapter two explores the symbolic gendering of educational and intellectual authority as female in metaphorical language and literary personifications, in light of the real presence of women educators in early medieval England and Francia. Chapters three and four examine women’s lived experiences of literacy in the context of a changing social gender paradigm in monastic culture across the eighth and ninth centuries. The two chapters challenge the reception of early medieval monastic women writers as “female,” which falsely signifies a shared experience of difference and subordination in literary culture across time. Together, my dissertation argues that early medieval girls and women were neither differentiated nor disadvantaged by their gender as participants in literate culture; rather, early medieval grammatical culture normalized girls’ and women’s writing and affirmed women’s intellectual life.
Zacher, SamanthaHicks, Andrew J.
Galloway, Andrew Scott; Raskolnikov, Masha; Hicks, Andrew J.; Zacher, Samantha
Ph. D., Medieval Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis