Women in the Middle Ages
“The most fitting word with which to describe [medieval] attitude[s] toward women is ambivalence. Women were God’s creation, his good gift to men—and the curse of the world.” — Elizabeth Clark, Women in the Church, 15 “[Women] were ciphers: figures imbued with an electric aura of significance that could not readily be grasped, signs requiring interpretation. Far from being holy or demonic, they presented an opaque and impenetrable public deportment that invited—indeed, demanded—engagement from observers.” – Nancy Caciola, Discerning Spirits, 79. Medieval theologians and scholars did not know what to make of women. Yes, God had created Eve, but for what purpose? If Eve was to blame for the fall of man, were all women at fault? What distinguished a “good” woman (i.e., Virgin Mary) from a “bad” woman (i.e., Eve)? What was the role of women in society and what could be done to control their mischievous and lustful nature? Choose a female character from the text: How does the author portray women and female values? What does this text reveal about society in the Middle Ages? You should only be citing one source. Please use footnotes in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style. (No in-text citations) http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html The prompt asks you to make an informed conclusion about women in medieval society based upon your assessment of one text from one text. Do not assume that the author is providing an accurate account of the time. Remember that medieval texts were exercises in interpreting reality, not describing it. You are therefore writing an essay on the representation of women and the feminine ideal rather than on how women actually acted and lived.
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