The Virgin Estate


in Saints' Lives and Women's Literary Culture, 1150-1300

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780198112792
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191707599 | DOI:
The Virgin Estate

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Virginity treatises of the 12th and 13th centuries in England construct an eternal future as heavenly brides for their audiences and propose enclosure away from the historical process as the proper position of virgin audiences on earth. The virgin heroine is imaged as an enclosed and solitary reader in a way that occludes female collectivity and common experience of lay, professed, and semi-religious women. This chapter uses Anglo–Norman manuscript and other material to argue that the conceptual morphology and the social circumstances of virginity are always much more labile than such models suggest. It considers five topics: the construction of virginity as timelessly youthful; the enclosure of women, secular and lay; images, prescriptions, and practices in the occupations of enclosed women; the interrelations of virginity with other kinds of lives; and the historiography of female communities.

Keywords: virginity; virgins; women; medieval England

Chapter.  22818 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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