Period Trouble: The Impossibility of Teaching Feminist Medieval History

  • Lisa M. Bitel
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Thirty years ago, historian Joan Kelly Gadol asked a now-celebrated historiographical question: Did women have a Renaissance? Kelly answered negatively, arguing that major intellectual and cultural changes of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had happened only for men.1 She implied further that men had effectively denied women full participation in the major developments of western history. Since then, three decades of historiographical response have helped historians rethink women’s participation in every period of the European past. Some scholars have pointed out the exceptional women who took part in and even helped direct mainstream trends and events. Others have responded to Kelly with a discrete history of mothers, wives, workers, servants, and other females who dwelt beyond the direct influence of easily defined political events or intellectual and artistic movements.2


Gender Ideology Historical Narrative Feminist Study American Historical Review Feminist 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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Marilyn Frye, “The Possibility of Feminist Theory,” in Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference, ed. Deborah L. Rhode (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), pp. 174–84.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Judith Bennett, “Feminism and History,” Gender & History 1 (1989): 252–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1972), pp. 120–21.Google Scholar
  4. Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  5. Rhiane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (San Francisco: Harper, 1988).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Vivian May, “Disciplinary Desires and Undisciplined Daughters: Negotiating the Politics of a Women’s Studies Doctoral Education,” National Women’s Studies Association Journal 14 (2002): 134–59.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    Bonnie Smith, The Gender of History: Men, Women and Historical Practice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 130–56.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Esther Fuchs, “Men in Biblical Feminist Scholarship,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 19 (2003): 103 [93–114].Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Joan Hoff, “Gender as a Postmodern Category of Paralysis,” Women’s History Review 3 (1994): 149–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Robert Scholes, Protocols of Reading (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), pp. 93–105.Google Scholar
  11. Caroline Ramazanoglu, “Unravelling Postmodern Paralysis: A Response to Joan Hoff,” Women’s History Review 5 (1996): 19–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 18.
    Thomas Hahn, “The Difference the Middle Ages Makes: Color and Race before the Modern World,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 31 (2001): 1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 19.
    Barbara Rosenwein, A Short History of the Middle Ages (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  14. C. Warren Hollister and Judith M. Bennett, Medieval Europe: A Short History (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002).Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    Elizabeth Brown, “The Tyranny of a Construct: Feudalism and Historians of Medieval Europe,” American Historical Review 79 (1974): 1063–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 25.
    Judith M. Bennett, “History that Stands Still: Women’s Work in the European Past,” Feminist Studies 14 (1988): 269–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 26.
    Susanne B. Dietzel and Polly Pagenhart, “Teaching Ideology to Material Girls: Pedagogy in the ‘Postfeminist’ Classroom,” Feminist Teacher 9 (1995): 129–36.Google Scholar
  18. 27.
    Jo Ann McNamara, Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two Millennia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  19. 30.
    Julia Kristeva, “Stabat Mater,” trans. Arthur Goldhammer, Poetics Today 6 (1985): 133–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 33.
    Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1999).Google Scholar
  21. 39.
    Lawrence Fine, Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos: Isaac Luria and His Kabbalistic Fellowship (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003).Google Scholar
  22. 40.
    David Biale, “Gershom Scholem’s ‘Ten Unhistorical Aphorisms on Kabbalah’: Text and Commentary,” Modern Judaism 5 (1985): 67–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lyle M. Eslinger, “Ezekiel 20 and the Metaphor of Historical Teleology: Concepts of Biblical History,” Journal for the Study of Old Testament 81 (1998): 93–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 41.
    Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah, 1626–1676 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973).Google Scholar
  25. 42.
    Caroline Walker Bynum, Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200–1336 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  26. 45.
    Rosemary Radford Ruether, Goddesses and the Divine Feminine: A Western Religious History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), p. 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Celia Chazelle and Felice Lifshitz 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa M. Bitel

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations