Virginity and the Gift


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:
Virginity and the Gift

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This chapter considers post-Conquest virgin saints and foundresses within textual and social paradigms of gift-giving. It proposes that nuptiality is a surface trope of virgin sanctity, the rhetorical face of more complex narratives concerned with so-called ‘dotality’, the virgin's capacity to be given and to give. It is argued that the importance of wholeness and fecundity in virgin figures of foundation and patronage are underestimated in modern concern with the dismemberment and partition of virgin bodies, as is the agency ascribable to these figures.

Keywords: virginity; virgins; gift giving; nuptiality; dotality

Chapter.  18641 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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