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Planting new ideas: A feminist gaze on medieval castles.

Dempsey, Karen ORCID: 2021. Planting new ideas: A feminist gaze on medieval castles. Château Gaillard: Études de castellologie médiévale 29 , pp. 85-98.

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This paper embraces the opportunity to discuss life at medieval castles outside of the traditional narrative of political power or status. Social approaches, especially gender, are far too rare in British castle-studies and largely absent in Ireland and France. What it was like as a person living in a castle, in other words - the lived experience - is underexplored. This is especially true of the daily life of women or those who existed on the margins of society. However, this cannot be remedied by ‘filling in the gaps’ of past narratives, we need to weave a new story, to form a rich tapestry of the past and the present that constructed it. We must integrate people, places and things within the same narrative. This paper is a first step against the discipline’s lack of enthusiasm to meaningfully engage with biographies, life cycles and social meaning of architecture and material culture. In this paper, (elite) female agency is explored in the context of the enclosed garden or the ‘hortus conclusus’, a space long-considered to be associated with women. The garden is a ‘contested space’ within castles studies where debates still concentrate on identifying ownership or control (i.e. male space and authority v female space and seclusion). This focus precludes conversations around who tended the garden, curated plants or participated in and organised the daily activities that may have occurred there. This study adopts a novel approach by integrating material culture, architecture, literature as well as ecological surveys and studies of relict medieval plants to create fuller picture of women and gardens at castles.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Publisher: Presses Universitaires de Caen
ISSN: 2491-844X
Funders: European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 746406.
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 13 October 2022
Date of Acceptance: 2020
Last Modified: 23 May 2023 14:31

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