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    While antifeminism in medieval literature is common, this paper examines literature by women (Christine de Pizan) and by men who wrote about women (Geoffrey Chaucer) who fought back.

    While antifeminism in medieval literature is common, this paper examines literature by women (Christine de Pizan) and by men who wrote about women (Geoffrey Chaucer) who fought back. The paper challenges the popular perception of medieval women as subordinate, to reveal women who subverted authority, and men who supported their cause.

    Paper structure:

    The paper is structured into two sections: the first examines texts written by women in the Middle Ages, and the second examines texts written by men about women in the Middle Ages:

    Texts written by women:

    In this section we read texts by Christine de Pizan and learn about her very public quarrel with the French literary establishment and their antifeminist portrayal of women. We read the trial records of Christine's contemporary, Joan of Arc, before she is sentenced and burned at the stake. We examine the letters of Margaret Paston and her family to learn about everyday life for medieval women. We examine works from Julian of Norwich and Margery Kemp, that reveal how women undermined the authority of the church.

    Texts written by men about women:

    In this section we learn about how medieval men wrote about women, particularly using the 'good woman' trope that Geoffrey Chaucer exploited but also undermined in The Legend of Good Women and in the Wife of Bath. We examine poems such as The Nine Ladies Worthy, The Flower and the Leaf, and The Assembly of Ladies, which show different ways of responding to the antifeminist tradition in male-authored literature. Finally, we finish with the most offensive or humorous (depending on your perspective) text, Giovanni Boccaccio's Il Corbaccio, about the evils of women.

    About this paper

    Paper title Medieval Misogyny: Subverting the Antifeminist Tradition
    Subject English
    EFTS 0.1667
    Points 20 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024 (Distance learning)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,240.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    72 300-level ENGL points

    Teaching staff

    Professor Simone Marshall

    Paper Structure

    This paper is taught in two x two-hour sessions per week.
    The classes will be very conversational and collaborative.
    The paper is taught on campus and by distance.

    The assessment comprises:
    Presentation (20%)
    Poster (30%)
    Research Essay (50%)

    There is no exam for this paper.

    Teaching Arrangements

    The Distance Learning offering of this paper is taught remotely.


    All of the following texts will be provided on Blackboard (they are all quite short texts):

    • 'The Book of the City of Ladies – Christine de Pizan'
    • Joan of Arc: Inquisitional Records
    • 'Lays' of Marie de France
    • 'Letters'' of Margaret Paston
    • Revelation of Divine Love'' – Julian of Norwich
    • The Book of Margery Kemp'
    • 'The Wife of Bath' – Geoffrey Chaucer
    • 'The Nine Ladies Worthy'
    • 'The Legend of Good Women' – Geoffrey Chaucer
    • 'The Flower and the Leaf'
    • 'The Assembly of Ladies'
    • 'Il Corbaccio' – Giovanni Boccaccio
    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Lifelong learning, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    At the end of this paper students will have achieved the following outcomes:


    1. Students will be able to analyse and debate the arguments in the medieval antifeminist tradition.
    2. Students will be able to determine the factors that medieval writers considered in their responses to antifeminism, distinguishing between the ways that male and female writers chose to present this.


    1. Students will be able to defend and compare strategies used by medieval writers.


    1. Students will be able to apply appropriate theoretical models to the texts studied.


    1. Students will be able to demonstrate their ability to synthesise concepts found in texts studied, and to present how the concepts manifest themselves in the texts.
    2. Students will be able to create sophisticated scholarly arguments, in both written and spoken form, that demonstrate their ability to generate original thought from existing sources.


    Not offered in 2024

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught through Distance Learning
    Learning management system
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