Doriane Zerka: Women as Transcultural Agents in Premodern European Literature



Session: Doriane Zerka (University of Cambridge): 'Women as Transcultural Agents in Premodern European Literature'


What role did noble women play in materially and ideologically shaping transcultural literary networks in medieval Europe? This paper highlights the constitutive role of women in transcultural networks, both extra- and intra-textual, that shaped medieval European literature by considering the examples of Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile, linked to Occitan troubadour lyric in which female characters take centre stage, and her sister Mathilda of England, Duchess of Saxony and Bavaria, often credited with fostering the translations of French texts into Middle High German in which women perform symbolic narrative roles. The lives of these women raise questions about the relation between their role as patrons and objects of dynastic exchange and the representations of female agency in the texts they helped circulate. Without implying a cause-and-effect relation, this paper seeks to reveal the routes of a transcultural network of practices and motifs linked to and enabled by the mobility of noble women in medieval Europe.

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