Medieval Women Visible: Ruth Dean Lecture Set for November 7
influence of what scholar Michael D. C. Drout has called J. R.
R. Tolkien's "masculinist medievalism" will be
the starting point for a lecture focusing on texts for and by
women in early medieval English and Anglo-Norman French to be
given by Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, professor of medieval literature
at Fordham University. Her talk, titled "J. R. R. Tolkien,
Anglo-Norman, and the Occlusion of Women's French Literary
History in England," is set for Thursday, November 7, at
8 pm in the Willits-Hallowell Center's Morrison Room and
is sponsored by the French department as part of the Ruth Dean
lecture series. A reception will follow.
"Jocelyn is a
lively and productive scholar in a field that is increasingly
central to understanding both French and English medieval literature,"
said Carolyn Collette, Professor of English Language and Literature
on the Alumnae Foundation. Collette refers to studies of the Anglo-Norman
era, the period after the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066 when
French was a major language of culture, law, administration, and
other areas of medieval England.
work in this era includes research on women in medieval Britain
and on texts for and by women in early medieval English and Anglo-Norman
French. Her many publications and edited collections include Medieval
English Prose for Women: Ancrene Wisse and the Katherine Group
(1990),Virgin Lives and Holy Deaths: Two Exemplary Biographies
for Anglo-Norman Women (1996), Voicing Medieval Women
(1996), The Idea of the Vernacular (1999), Medieval
Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain (2000),
and Saints' Lives and Women's Literary Culture, c.1150c.1300:
Virginity and Its Authorizations (2001).
To start her lecture
at MHC, Wogan-Browne will explore the ideological position of
Tolkien, an influential Oxford don and eminent medievalist who
in his literary criticism, as well as in his own fantasy literature,
marginalized the influence of women and the importance of Anglo-Norman
culture in Britain. Wogan-Browne notes that Tolkien "loathed"
the Normans, and did not consider the role of women in literary
production of importance either in the numerous French texts of
the thirteenth century or in the early medieval English texts
of that century that he edited and studied. Says Wogan-Browne,
"Tolkien's particular linguistic interests in early
English, Norse, and Celtic languages were part of a vision of
British national history that excluded French influence completely
and sought to establish an unbroken tradition of 'Englishness'
before and after the Norman conquest. The agenda for literary
study of the English Middle Ages set by Tolkien and his colleagues
thus consciously or unconsciously occluded some four hundred years
of the French literary history of women in medieval England."
Following her discussion of Tolkien, Wogan-Browne will focus on
exactly what he ignored, women's roles in and contributions
to the literature of the Anglo-Norman period.
The Ruth Dean lecture
series was established in 1967 upon the retirement of Ruth Dean,
MHC Professor Emeritus of French and a specialist in the study
of Anglo-Norman literature and culture. The lecture fund has supported
visits by outstanding medievalists such as Roberta L. Krueger,
Leonard C. Ferguson Professor of French at Hamilton College, and
Ian Short, professor at University of London's Birkbeck College
and president of the Anglo-Norman Text Society. Short was editor
for Dean's Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and
Manuscripts (Anglo-Norman Text Society 2000), which was awarded
the Prix Honor Chave by the Académie des Inscriptions et
Belles-Lettres, the second oldest of the five academies of the
Institut de France. This year marks Ruth Dean's one-hundredth
birthday and the thirty-fifth year of the Ruth Dean lecture series.