Female Succession and the Language of Power in the Writings of Twelfth-Century Churchmen

  • Lois L. Huneycutt


The complex question of the relationship of women to power has been a vexed one for historians and feminist theorists for what is beginning to seem like a very long time. Approaching the question becomes more complicated when scholars investigate eras and cultures far removed from our own, when even basic assumptions about gender roles and differences often vary widely from ours. These complications are evident from the results of recent studies on women and power in the Middle Ages that have revealed an often puzzling picture (Erler and Kowaleski 1988: 1–17). Certainly medieval medical and scientific views of women, mainly inherited from antiquity, were extremely misogynistic (Bullough 1973). In addition, medieval Christian theologians accepted and furthered the patristic view of woman as the cause of original sin and portrayed women as having special barriers to overcome before they could achieve salvation (Børrenson 1981). But when it comes to relationships between actual men and women, the situation becomes ambiguous. For instance, even the most misogynistic of male theorists sincerely respected individual female friends and relatives (d’Alverny 1970; Ruether 1979). At the same time, some who professed respect and even reverence for the female sex as a whole maintained troubled relationships with actual women (McLaughlin 1975; Muckle 1955).


Public Authority Twelfth Century Female Candidate Female Succession Masculine Quality 
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Copyright information

© John Carmi Parsons 1998

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  • Lois L. Huneycutt

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