Male Authors, Female Readers: Representation and Subjectivity in Middle English Devotional Literature
Although written to increase their female audience's religious fervor, devotional texts implicitly promoted cultural values drawn from other discourses as well. Within the same text, Bartlett shows, a woman reader might be invited to identify not only with the temptress reviled by misogynistic ascetics, but simultaneously with the courtly domina, the supportive spiritual friend of the author, or with the erotic sponsa Christi. Because of the varying levels of literacy of medieval women readers, however - as well as the abundance of competing representations of those readers - the overt messages of devotional texts were interrupted and distorted. As Bartlett analyzes the complex relationship between misogynistic literature and the development of female subjectivity in the Middle Ages, she helps refute the assumption common among feminist critics that women necessarily internalize negative portrayals.
Cornell University Press