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Women's writing and cultural patronage

Nicholson, Helen ORCID: 2019. Women's writing and cultural patronage. Bale, Anthony, ed. The Cambridge companion to the literature of the Crusades, The Cambridge Companions to Literature, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 72-84. (10.1017/9781108672832.006)

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Women were widely involved in crusading as leaders and patrons, even though they seldom if ever fought on the battlefield. Some – mostly famously the Byzantine princess Anna Comnena – wrote about the crusades, and women also acted as patrons of art, architecture and literature related to the crusades. Women’s struggle was invoked by writers on the crusades to epitomise the struggle of Christianity as a whole. This chapter surveys women’s contribution to the literature and culture of the Crusades. Although it can be difficult to identify works of literature and cultural patronage by women during the middle ages, this survey finds that women of different classes did contribute to the literature and cultural patronage of the crusades in various ways. The wealthy had the most opportunity and means to give patronage, although the fact it can be difficult to distinguish female patronage indicates that it did not differ from men’s. No chronicles specifically focussed on the crusades were authored by women: Anna Comnena’s history was a biography of her father which included an account of the first crusade – but women did possess works about the crusades. Holy women, claiming visionary inspiration from God, wrote to exhort or criticise crusaders, urging them to act according to God’s directions as given through them. For such women their spirituality offered them a form of agency, although this was tightly circumscribed by what was viewed as acceptable action for lay people: for example, Dorothy of Montau was accused of heresy at Danzig for requesting the Eucharist too often. Women promoted the crusades and memorialised crusaders. In their writing and cultural patronage for the crusades they expressed the same concerns as their male counterparts, although many (Marie d’Oignies, Catherine of Siena and even Joan of Arc) may have aimed to achieve martyrdom at the hands of the Muslims rather than participating in a military victory.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Uncontrolled Keywords: Crusades; medieval women
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9781108464864
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 08:40

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