Journal of Romance Studies

The traffic in talk about women: cultural traffic in medieval texts and Medieval Studies

Journal of Romance Studies (2004), 4, (3), 13–34.

Abstract

This essay examines one instance of cultural traffic between French and Italian, to argue medieval texts on women have been ill-served by the tendency of scholars to study them either in relative isolation, or in indiscriminate juxtaposition. The essay explores the relationship between two misogynous poems, the twelfth-century Old French Chastiemusart and a Veneto text influenced by it, the Proverbia super natura feminarum. Strategic differences in narratorial voicing suggest strongly that the Proverbia are meant to parody the Chastiemusart, not simply to imitate it. The article examines how and why medieval misogynous writing is usually read as invariably straight, as representing not only official clerical culture but a general cultural consensus. In closing, the article considers the manuscript matrices of both texts, highlighting elements that suggest that even serious misogynous diatribes do not transparently articulate a universal medieval view of women.

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Psaki, F. Regina