Epilogue: Joan of Arc

  • Maud Burnett McInerney
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Down the hill from the open-air theater where the Mystère de Sainte Reine is performed every autumn stands a monument to another virgin martyr. Wearing a full suit of armor and mounted on a horse caught in mid-stride, Joan of Arc looks past a straggle of houses and over the green valley below. The contrast between the two saints is telling. Despite the local cult devoted to her, Reine seems to belong entirely to legend; Joan’s life is the most extensively documented of the medieval period, and her cult is anything but local. Statues of her are ubiquitous in France; Catholic schoolchildren the world over are given prayer cards decorated with appropriately saccharine images to mark her feast day (May 30); she transcends religious affiliation both as a patriotic icon in France and as a pop-culture diva in Europe and North America.1 This juxtaposition of a local legend and an international heroine may serve to illuminate the degree to which the brief, passionate life of Joan of Arc reflects, refracts, and (perhaps?) finally escapes the paradoxes inherent in the virgin martyr narrative. In the previous chapters, I have argued that the experience of the legendary virgin often informed the lives of medieval women more or less directly, and especially the lives of those rare medieval women who wrote. Hrotsvitha, Hildegard, and Clemence had confronted in various ways the ideological traps inherent in the legend of the virgin martyr; they worked especially hard to undo the connection between virginity, silence, and death by rendering it purely and usefully ironic or metaphorical.


Trial Transcript Rehabilitation Trial Divine Inspiration Passionate Life Green Valley 
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  1. 1.
    See e.g. Nadia Margolis, “The ‘Joan Phenomenon’ and the French Right,” Fresh verdicts on Joan of Arc, ed. Bonnie Wheeler and Charles T. Wood (New York: Garland, 1996), pp. 265–88; Kevin J. Harty, “Jeanne au cinema,” Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc, pp. 237–64 and Françoise Melzer, For Fear of the Fire: Joan of Arc and the Limits of Subjectivity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), pp.19–21. Recent manifestations of Joan on American television include the Witchblade cable series (dir. David Carson et al., starring Yancy Butler), which premiered during the summer of 2001, and “Bone of Arc,” an episode in the PBS Wishbone series starring a Jack Russell terrier. In California, a woman named Frances Marie Klug has been receiving revelations from Joan herself (among other saints) since 1982; these are posted on a regularly updated website: Scholar
  2. 2.
    On Joan’s military abilities see Kelly De Vries, Joan of Arc: A Military Leader (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton, 1999).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Karen Sullivan, The Interrogation of Joan of Arc (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1999), p. xv.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Marina Warner, Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981;rpt. 2000), p. 22.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Quicherat, 5.114–21. On de Boulainvilliers’s letter, see Charles Wayland Lightbody, The Judgments of Joan: Joan of Arc: A Study in Cultural History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961), pp. 56–57.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    Quicherat, 1.446, n. 1. On the signing of the cedula, see Régine Pernoud and Véronique Clin, Joan of Arc: Her Story, trans. Jeremy duQuesnay Adams, ed. Bonnie Wheeler (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), p. 233.Google Scholar

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© Maud Burnett McInerney 2003

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  • Maud Burnett McInerney

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