The Discourse of Enclosure

Representing Women in Old English Literature

Shari Horner
eISBN-13: 9780791490440

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2001 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

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.

ISBNs 9780791490440, 9780791450093, 0791490440
Language English