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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 module 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 module looks at the twists and turns in the complex querelle des femmes from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

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

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate a knowledge of key texts and topics in the writing about women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
  • recognise the central ideas within and contexts for the ‘woman question’
  • read and appreciate the form of medieval and renaissance rhetorical writing
  • engage with the secondary criticism on the medieval and renaissance woman question.