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The Woman Question: Medieval to Renaissance


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Isabel Davis
  • Assessment: an independent research essay (100%)

Module description

‘Women did not make the books and they did not put in them the things that we read there against women and their morals,’ Christine de Pizan complained in 1399, taking aim at an established and admired tradition of antifeminist invective. She, of course, was to make books, as did other women who also found ways to engage with and use the literary traditions which discussed and defined their nature.

This course offers the opportunity to read key texts in a sparkling and curious medieval and renaissance literary debate tradition, which had real force in the world and in women’s lived lives. The course looks at the twists and turns in the complex querelle des femmes from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, from Chaucer to Paradise Lost. It will chart a debate tradition that variously defamed and defended women, asking you to consider what was at stake in those debates.

You can take this course either as a one-off module, or as a taste either of the MA Medieval Studies or the MA Renaissance Studies. It offers a chance to take part in the graduate community events at Birkbeck.