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The Female Patience Figure as Frozen Speaker

  • Robin Waugh
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Much evidence for the gendering of patience literature appears in late classical and early medieval discussions of patience that employ personification and allegory: widely used rhetorical techniques in these periods. Very quickly and almost unvaryingly these discussions present patience as a female figure,1 and the monumental qualities of even the earliest of these personifications demonstrate that writers conceived the personification process, at least partially, as a marking out of space—as might be expected when this process casts abstract concepts into the forms of statue-like representations. But marking out spaces would be an unusual activity for late antique or early medieval women. Consequently, as patience literature develops and mimicry of patience figures changes into duplication, many female figures of patience start to occupy and define spaces that early medieval writers identify more and more specifically as “appropriate” ones for women.

Keywords

British Library Patience Literature Bible Story Patience Figure Suspended Animation 
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. 1.
    Later, male figures become more common, for example, the male personification of Patience in William Langland’s Piers Plowman: An Edition of the C-Text, ed. Derek Pearsall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978). See Passus 15, lines 33–34.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The complexity is surprising because critics have often treated Tertullian as strongly antifeminist. See Maud Burnett McInerney, Eloquent Virgins: From Thecla to Joan of Arc (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p. 17.Google Scholar
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    Tertullian can be quite egalitarian in general, and certainly praises women martyrs as much as men, with little in the way of distinction between their personal qualities. See Daniel L. Hoffman, The Status of Women and Gnosticism in Irenaeus and Tertullian (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1995), pp. 169–70. For critical works concerning Tertullian’s rhetorical skill, see Erin Ronsse, “Rhetoric of Martyrs: Listening to Saints Perpetua and Felicitas,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 14 (2006): n. 15.Google Scholar
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    Martin Harries, “Forgetting Lot’s Wife: Artaud, Spectatorship, and Catastrophe,” Yale Journal of Criticism 11 (1998): 227. Bede also stresses the sounds of destruction that reach her. SeeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For “sense for sense” translation as opposed to “word for word” (the idea came originally from Cicero, and was further popularized by Jerome and King Alfred), see Robert Stanton, The Culture of Translation in Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 2002), pp. 75, 82, 110–11.Google Scholar
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    The translation is from Dolores Warwick Frese, “Sexing Political Tropes of Conquest: ‘The Wife’s Lament’ and La?amon’s Brut,” in Sex and Sexuality in Anglo-Saxon England: Essays in Memory of Daniel Gillmore Calder, ed. Carol Braun Pasternack and Lisa M. C. Weston (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2004), p. 211, n. 22.Google Scholar
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  27. 50.
    Niobe’s story is an analogue to Lot’s wife’s in that the former is transformed into a physical object, the rock of Sipylos, which one may still visit. According to tradition, the rock still weeps. See Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, 2 vols. (New York: George Braziller, 1955), 1:259. The Adventures of Leucippe and Clitophon also connects the immovability of its heroine with Niobe (Achilles Tatius 3.15.167). In Aesop’s Fables, truth is “a woman standing all alone” out in the desert, having left “the town ,” which is full of liars. SeeGoogle Scholar
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    Julia Kristeva, Tales of Love, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), pp. 376, 375.Google Scholar
  30. 54.
    For connections between landscape, body, and the surface of a manuscript page, see Withers, The Illustrated Old English Hexateuch, p. 264; and Patricia Cox Miller, “The Blazing Body: Ascetic Desire in Jerome’s Letter to Eustochium,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 1 (1993): 27–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 60.
    Incerti de Sodoma, lines 125–26. The menstruation confirms that she is alive and remains premenopausal. Hence, Eve’s punishment for disobedience is extended until the end of time for Lot’s wife, who thus connects with Genesis’s theme of fertility in language. This portrayal of Lot’s wife as still menstruating in her transformed state appears much more rarely during the Middle Ages as compared to other traditions concerning her. Her blood recalls the blood of the martyrs, often associated with relics and cults. See Peggy McCracken, The Curse of Eve, the Wound of the Hero: Blood, Gender, and Medieval Literature (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), pp. 2–8, 22–37.Google Scholar
  32. 61.
    Menstrual blood connects with the early medieval idea of learning through breast milk. See Susan Signe Morrison, Women Pilgrims in Late Medieval England: Private Piety as Public Performance (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 32;Google Scholar
  33. Joyce E. Salisbury, Perpetua’s Passion: The Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman (New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 142; andGoogle Scholar
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  35. 62.
    Many ancient monuments present the human figure as larger or smaller than life. See Max Wegener, Greek Masterworks of Art, trans. Charlotte La Rue (New York: George Braziller, 1961), plates 2, 3, 6, 7, 12, 58, 63, 64, 108–11. Most medieval depictions of Lot’s wife in artworks suggest that she is life-sized.Google Scholar
  36. 65.
    See Peter Brown, Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), pp. 103–65; Graves, Greek Myths, 1:11. For what cities represent to Anglo-Saxons, seeGoogle Scholar
  37. Nicholas Howe, “Rome: Capital of Anglo-Saxon England,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 34 (2004): 147–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 68.
    See Bernard F. Huppé, Doctrine and Poetry: Augustine’s Influence on Old English Poetry (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1959), pp. 203–04; Bede, In Lucae Evangelium expositio, p. 319; Godden, “The Trouble with Sodom,” p. 99. On the other hand, were one to treat the tribes that descend from Lot’s daughters as the products of evil deeds, under the taint of incest, one would have to acknowledge that Lot’s wife, by being turned into a salt-stone, “never becomes part of the incestuous community after the destruction of the cities” and thus might also be considered a figure of “salvation” (Harries, Forgetting Lot’s Wife, p. 32).Google Scholar
  39. 78.
    Graves, Greek Myths, 2:316. Not to mention the stone figure in Andreas that speaks explicitly (line 713). For emblems of Patience, see Gerald J. Schiffhorst, ed., The Triumph of Patience: Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Orlando: University Presses of Florida, 1978), frontispiece, and pp. 16–19, and 116.Google Scholar
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    Joseph Bosworth, ed., An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1882), with a Supplement by T. North cote Toller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921), Enlarged Addenda and Corrigenda to the Supplement by Alastair Campbell (Oxford: Clarendon Press), 1972, s. v. “Sið”.Google Scholar
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    See Bosworth and Toller, eds., An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, s. v. “Wic”; Richard L. Venezky and Antonette DiPaolo Healey, eds., A Microfiche Concordance to Old English (Toronto: Dictionary of Old English Project, University of Toronto, 1980), s. v. “Wic.” Both the abode of the Grendel family and the dragon’s barrow are described as examples of wic, so the term is not unambiguously positive. See Beowulf, lines 1612a, 3083a. I gratefully acknowledge Richard Firth Green who drew my attention to the use of this term in the Genesis A passage.Google Scholar
  42. 91.
    Anita R. Riedinger, “The Englishing of Arcestrate: Woman in Apollonius of Tyre,” in New Readings on Women in Old English Literature, ed. Helen Damico, Alexandra Hennesey Olsen, and Marijane Osborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), p. 301.Google Scholar

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© Robin Waugh 2012

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  • Robin Waugh

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