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Gender, Nation and Conquest in the Works of William of Malmesbury

Gender, Nation and Conquest in the Works of William of Malmesbury

Kirsten A. Fenton
Volume: 4
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81vmg
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  • Book Info
    Gender, Nation and Conquest in the Works of William of Malmesbury
    Book Description:

    William of Malmesbury is one of the most important English historians of the twelfth century -- not only a critical period in English history, but also one that has been recognised as significant in terms of the writing of history and the construction of a national past. This innovative study provides a gendered reading of Malmesbury's works with special reference to the themes of conquest and nation. It considers Malmesbury's presentation of men and women [both lay and religious] through categories based on attributes, such as sexual behaviour and violence, rather than the more familiar `professional' or familial roles, such as warrior and wife. It is also concerned with language and how the topics of conquest and nation are discussed in gendered terms. Importantly, attention is paid to Malmesbury's own position as a post-conquest chronicler, writing at a time of church reform, and to the impact the changes had upon the construction of the stories he narrates. KIRSTEN A. FENTON holds a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-642-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book is a gendered reading of the works of an individual author with special reference to the themes of conquest and nation. The author in question is the twelfth-century Benedictine monk William of Malmesbury whose literary oeuvre spans a number of genres including history and hagiography.

    Since Joan Wallach Scott offered her two-pronged definition of gender in 1986 historians have considered the usefulness of gender as a category of historical analysis.¹ Scott argued that gender was an intrinsic social component of sexual difference between men and women as well as being a synonym for power relations between the sexes....

  6. Chapter 1 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY AND HIS WORLD
    (pp. 9-25)

    The period from 1066 to the mid-twelfth century has been seen as critical in the history of early medieval English historical writing. Post-1066 there was a flowering of historical and hagiographical writing that was unique for its time. Most took place in monastic communities and in particular great Old English Benedictine communities like Malmesbury, Worcester and Canterbury. These monastic communities were literary powerhouses, producing a variety of different works in a diverse range of genres, which included charters, saints’ lives, local histories, institutional histories and national histories. Traditionally historians have focused on the Norman conquest of England as the key...

  7. Chapter 2 WILLIAM’S CONSTRUCTION OF GENDER: VIOLENCE AND ITS EXPRESSION
    (pp. 26-55)

    During the Rouen riot of 1090 the ringleader of the rebels, Conan, was captured and brought before Robert Curthose and Henry I to hear his fate. Robert thought Conan should be imprisoned for life for his treasonous actions. Henry did not agree. Instead he took Conan to the top of the keep at Rouen,

    and told him carefully to survey the wide prospect visible from the tower’s tops, with the assurance (it was a bitter jest) that all would soon be his; he then caught him off his guard, and, with a helping hand from the companions who were with...

  8. Chapter 3 WILLIAM’S CONSTRUCTION OF GENDER: SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR
    (pp. 56-85)

    On 11 november 1100 Henry I of England married Edith/Matilda of Scotland in a ceremony held at Westminster. For William of Malmesbury this marriage and its presentation were especially important because it involved his patron and her husband. He notes that Henry had been

    urged by his friends and especially the bishops to abandon the embrace of his mistresses (pelicis) and to enter lawful wedlock (legitimum … conubium) … To love (amor) of her [i.e. Matilda] his mind had long since turned, and a rich dowry was in his eyes of no account, if he could but secure the affections...

  9. Chapter 4 THE PRESENTATION OF GENTES
    (pp. 86-99)

    William of malmesbury was writing in a period where questions of identity and their definition were crucial. It has been argued that the works of twelfth-century chroniclers like Malmesbury were part of a response to the changing circumstances that conquest brought and in particular played important roles in the preservation of an English past.¹ Definitions of the English and the English nation have long been seen by historians as particularly significant issues in relation to the impact of the 1066 conquest.² How are national groups or gentes defined and presented? What happens to national groupings in times of war, conquest...

  10. Chapter 5 GENDER, NATION AND CONQUEST
    (pp. 100-128)

    Narratives of war, conquest and invasion involve gender constructions and definitions. This is not a particularly bold or new statement given the age-old distinction that warfare is what men do and women do not. Such essentialist assumptions need to be located within specific rhetorical and historical contexts. Recent work, particularly modern studies of war and gender, has emphasised the multitude of ways in which the social construct of gender and a gendered language can interact in representations of war and warfare. Mrinalini Sinha has considered representations of British and Indian men in late nineteenth-century India within the framework of colonial...

  11. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 129-136)

    Applying gender as a tool of historical analysis to the works of one author has revealed the multiple discourses that helped shape and influence his narrative construction. A gendered reading exhibited much not only about the author’s ideas and ideals of masculinity and femininity but also how a gendered language could be used to organise and conceptualise these social relations and differences. These aspects of gender analysis were brought to light through a close reading of Malmesbury’s texts in order to establish his ideas. Yet Malmesbury’s ideas were not seen in isolation but were read for what they could reveal...

  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 137-156)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 157-164)