Over the course of her career, Elizabeth Robertson has pursued innovative scholarship that investigates the overlapping domains of medieval philosophy, literature, and gender studies. This collection of essays, dedicated to her work, examines gender as a construct of language, a mode of embodiment, and a critical framework for thinking about the past. Its eleven contributors approach the figure of the gendered body in medieval English writing along several axes: poetic, philosophical, material-textual, and historical. The volume focuses on the ways that the medieval body becomes a site of inquiry and agency, whether in the form of the idealized feminine body of secular and religious lyric, the sexually permissive and permeable body of fabliau, or the intercessory body of religious devotional writing. The essays span a broad range of medieval literary works, from the lais of Marie de France to Pearl to Piers Plowman and the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer, and a broad range of methodological approaches, from philosophy to affect and manuscript studies. Taken together, they celebrate the scholarly career of Elizabeth Robertson while also presenting a coherent and multifaceted investigation of the intersections of gender and medieval literary practice.
Jennifer Jahner is professor of English at Caltech.
Ingrid Nelson is associate professor of English at Amherst College.
Introduction: The Form of Thought
Jennifer Jahner (Caltech) and Ingrid Nelson (Amherst College)
Part 1: Form and Knowing
Jamie Taylor (Bryn Mawr College)
Stephanie Trigg (University of Melbourne)
Robert Pasnau (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Kate Crassons (Lehigh University)
Part 2: Material Poetics
Amy N. Vines (University of North Carolina, Greensboro)
Julia Boffey (Queen Mary University) and A.S.G. Edwards (University of Kent)
Ad Putter (University of Bristol)
Part 3: Historicizing Gender
Roberta Krueger (Hamilton College)
C. David Benson (University of Connecticut, Storrs, emeritus) and Pamela J. Benson (University of Connecticut, Storrs, emerita)
James Simpson (Harvard University)
While celebrating Elizabeth Robertson’s long and distinguished body of scholarship, this volume affirms that debts to another’s critical arguments can in the best circumstances lead to new and refreshing insights. With considerations of acrostics and ballads, and in treatments that include authors such as John Clanvowe, Margery Kempe, and Marie de France, chapters show how form enables different kinds of embodiment, and how gender conditions expectations for various genres and/or authors. For its intellectual originality and critical generosity, this volume will be a mainstay of late Middle English literary studies.
This essay collection offers a fitting tribute to topics and passions that have animated Beth Robertson’s scholarship over the course of her career, including poetic form, gender and history, material culture, embodied cognition, and the philosophical dimensions of will and consent. Covering wide-ranging topics from ethics and knowledge, to medieval debates about voluntarism, to the Wife of Bath’s “not-yet” text, the essays in this volume expand on Robertson’s work to chart future directions in Medieval Studies.
The value of Beth Robertson’s work in medieval English literary studies is incalculable, as are her trailblazing impact and influence as a founding member of the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship. This collection of essays pays due homage to Robertson’s formidable and broad range of scholarship and intellectual interests while also showcasing the new directions she has led others to pursue in literary forms, genres, and history. This excellent book is both a significant scholarly contribution in its own right and a worthy tribute to an extraordinary scholar and mentor.