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Reading Reading Women: Double-Mirroring the Dame in Der Ritter vom Turn

  • Anne Simon
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

This view on the desirability of women’s reading is found in Der Ritter vom Turn (1493), the German version of the Livre du chevalier de la Tour Landry. It is prompted by the story of Deborah, whose wisdom, culled from Holy Scripture, enabled her, according to the Knight, to convert her hardhearted, evil husband from his wicked ways into a just and peace-loving man. While the biblical Deborah was a judge, prophetess, and military leader who led a coalition of Israelite tribes to a victory on the plain of Esdraelon over the superior Canaanite forces commanded by Sisera (Judges 4–5), the Knight turns her into a model of feminine piety and domestic virtue whose book learning furnishes her with weapons for the taming not of her people’s enemy but of her tyrannical spouse.

Keywords

German Version Female Voice Open Book French Original Roman History 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Ruth Harvey, “Prolegomena to an edition of ‘Der Ritter vom Turn,’” in Probleme mittelalterlicher Überlieferung und Textkritik: Oxforder Colloquium 1966, ed. Peter F. Ganz and Werner Schröder (Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1968), p. 163 [162–82], and Hans Joachim Kreutzer, “Marquart vom Stein,” in Die deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters: Verfasserlexikon, ed. Wolfgang Stammler et al., 2nd edn., 10 vols. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1987), vol. 6, col. 133 [129–35] suggest the daughters may have been a useful fiction. If so, their fictionality would open a different interpretation of the undeniably salacious aspects of the text since these would function more clearly as the means to sexual titillation. Indeed, a double readership may have been intended from the start: the male reader, who would have enjoyed the male authority stamped on and the risqué entertainment offered in the text; and the female reader, for whom the stories were meant to function as warnings or models, but for whom some of the stories may also have been sexually titillating. As Holt N. Parker states: “The woman is a fiction, a male-created mask, which authorizes and privileges a male-created text.” In other words, the male reader may have been intended as the prime recipient, the daughters and female readers a vehicle for arousing material. See Holt N. Parker, “Love’s Body Anatomized: The Ancient Erotic Handbooks and the Rhetoric of Sexuality,” in Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome, ed. Amy Richlin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 92 [90–107]. My thanks to Heike Bartel of the Department of German, University of Nottingham, for this reference and her helpful comments on this essay.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    For discussion of the authorship of the woodcuts see the following: Franz Bock, Die Werke des Matthias Grünewald, Studien zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte 54 (Strasbourg: Heitz and Mündel, 1904)Google Scholar
  3. Rudolf Kautzsch, Die Holzschnitte zum Ritter vom Turn (Basel 1493), Studien zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte 44 (Strasbourg: Heitz and Mündel, 1903)Google Scholar
  4. Hans Koegler, “Die Basler Gebetholzschnitte vom Illustrator des Narrenschiffs und Ritters vom Turn,” Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 1 (1926): 117–31Google Scholar
  5. Werner Weisbach, Der Meister der Bergmannschen Offizin und Albrecht Dürers Beziehungen zur Basler Buchillustration: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des deutschen Holzschnittes, Studien zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte 6 (Strasbourg: Heitz and Mündel, 1896) and Weisbach, Die Baseler Buchillustration des XV. Jahrhunderts, Studien zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte 8 (Strasbourg: Heitz and Mündel, 1896)Google Scholar
  6. Wilhelm Worringer, Die altdeutsche Buchillustration (Munich: Piper, 1912), pp. 81–82Google Scholar
  7. Erwin Panofsky, The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1943; repr. 1955), pp. 28–29Google Scholar
  8. Heinrich Röttinger, “Die Holzschnitte der Druckerei des Jacob Cammerlander in Straβburg,” Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 11 (1936): 129 [125–40]Google Scholar
  9. Friedrich Winkler, Dürer und die Illustrationen zum Narrenschiff (Berlin: Deutscher Verein für Kunstwissenschaft, 1951), p. 57. See also Harvey, “Prolegomena,” p. 180Google Scholar
  10. Theodor Brüggemann in Zusammenarbeit mit Otto Brunken et al., Handbuch zur Kinder-und Jugendliteratur, vol. 1, Vom Beginn des Buchdrucks bis 1570 (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1987), col. 755 [739–78].Google Scholar
  11. 4.
    Peter Strieder, Dürer: Paintings, Prints, Drawings, trans. Nancy M. Gordon and Walter L. Strauss (London: Frederick Muller, 1982), for example, attributes the woodcuts unequivocally to Dürer and his assistants (p. 93).Google Scholar
  12. 5.
    J.L. Grigsby has identified the collection as the Miroir des bonnes femmes. Grigsby shows that the French original of the Livre adapts from the Miroir the sequence of stories about good and bad women taken from the Bible. See J.L. Grigsby, “Miroir des bonnes femmes,” Romania 82 (1961): 458–81Google Scholar
  13. Grigsby, “A New Source of the Livre du Chevalier de la Tour Landry,” Romania 84 (1963): 171–208.Google Scholar
  14. 7.
    Diane Bornstein cites Marguerite and Blanche of Burgundy, daughters-in-law of Philip the Fair, who were suspected of adultery because they had each given a knight a purse of cloth-of-gold. The women were thrown into prison; the young knights were flayed alive. See Diane Bornstein, The Lady in the Tower: Medieval Courtesy Literature for Women (Hamden: Archon, 1983), p. 120.Google Scholar
  15. 9.
    Indeed, should the daughters be a convenient narrative fiction, the force and immediacy of the father-narrator’s strictures on the actual (female) reader are increased since s/he becomes the prime recipient. Writing about Middle English devotional literature, Anne Clark Bartlett argues the following: “The conventional goal of promoting devotion by ‘reforming’ the identity of the readers helps explain why devotional texts regularly address their audiences directly, calling them, for example, ‘dear friend.’” See Bartlett, Male Authors, Female Readers: Representation and Subjectivity in Middle English Devotional Literature (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1995), p. 19. Similarly, in the Ritter vom Turn this strategy helps to draw both the assumed daughters and the actual female readers into the logic of the father-narrator’s exegesis of the stories and closes down potential escape routes into independent exegesis by female readers. The question remains as to whether the female reader is equally drawn into identification of herself with the visual representations of the daughters and feels constrained by them or whether she is able to resist.Google Scholar
  16. 10.
    Kaja Silverman, “Dis-Embodying the Female Voice,” in Re-Vision: Essays in Feminist Film Criticism, ed. Mary Ann Doane, Patricia Mellencamp, and Linda Williams, The American Film Institute Monograph Series 3 (Los Angeles: University Publications of America, 1984), p. 132 [131–49].Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    “Lappidoth” means “torches” and only occurs as a proper name in this context. For a commentary on Judges see James D. Martin, The Book of Judges (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1975)Google Scholar
  18. J. Alberto Soggin, Judges: A Commentary, trans. John Bowden, Old Testament Library (London: SCM Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  19. 14.
    For St. Katherine and her iconography see Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, The Dictionary of Women in Religious Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 66–68Google Scholar
  20. Sally Fisher, The Square Halo and Other Mysteries of Western Art Images and the Stories that Inspired Them (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995), pp. 40–42; Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, ed. James Hall (London: John Murray, 1974; repr. 2000), pp. 58–59Google Scholar
  21. Peter and Linda Murray, The Oxford Companion to Christian Art and Architecture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 95.Google Scholar
  22. 17.
    This is supported by Lesley Smith’s argument that the book held by Mary “represents the Christ that Gabriel is sent to announce. Lest we think that Christ did not exist before the birth of Jesus, this already-present book reminds us of the doctrine of the eternity of the Word. The Word made flesh (so graphically evident in the parchment pages of a manuscript book) in Mary’s book is symbolically present at the very moment of his conception.” See Smith, “Scriba, Femina: Medieval Depictions of Women Writing,” in Women and the Book, ed. Lesley Smith and Jane H.M. Taylor (London: British Library, 1997), p. 22 [21–44].Google Scholar
  23. For the significance of representations of the Virgin reading and their relationship to women’s literacy in the Middle Ages see Pamela Sheingorn, “‘The Wise Mother’: The Image of St. Anne Teaching the Virgin Mary,” Gesta 32.1 (1993): 69–80. My thanks to Diane Wolfthal for this reference.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 21.
    Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Screen 16.3 (1975): 11 [6–18]; repr. in Feminism and Film Theory, ed. Constance Penley (London: BFI Publishing, 1988) p. 62 [57–68].Google Scholar
  25. 23.
    Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), pp. 45–46.Google Scholar
  26. 25.
    Robert Scribner, “Ways of Seeing in the Age of Dürer,” in Dürer and His Culture, ed. Dagmar Eichberger and Charles Zika (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 104–105 [93–117].Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Emma Campbell and Robert Mills 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Simon

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