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Document Type

Article

Peer Reviewed

1

DOI

10.17077/1536-8742.2023

Access Restrictions

Full text restricted to subscribers.

Abstract

This article wants to provide a comprehensive answer to the question of why the majority of personifications in medieval literature are women. Especially, it seeks to refute the notion that female personifications of positive concepts would somehow escape or reverse the dominant gender ideology of its time. It brings together the different theories that have been proposed by scholars and situates them within a common framework. The article distinguish three levels to which these theories refer: these are, first, the level of the literal or the personification as a woman; second, the level of the figurative, or the idea that is personified; and third, the level of discourse about personification as a literary figure and allegorical practice. It shows how these three levels are characterized by the same gendered discourse. So, not only the level of the personification as a woman, but also the idea that she represents and the way that the literary figure of personification itself is described, make use of women’s status as the other, of the feminine associations of corporality, and of women’s role as mediators and objects of desire. So, it may be that positive female personifications reflect a positive evaluation of women, but this evaluation still takes place within the binary-hierarchical system that sees women in relation to and in a lower position than men. The femaleness of personifications determines the way these figures function: their gender is indissolubly linked to the social position of real women.

Keywords

medieval allegory; personification; gender; the feminine divine

Rights Information

Copyright © 2018 Dinah Wouters

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