Date of Graduation

12-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

William Quinn

Committee Member

Lynda Coon

Second Committee Member

Joshua Smith

Abstract

This dissertation examines four English texts—Beowulf; Ancrene Wisse; Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales’ Man of Law’s Tale and Second Nun’s Tale; and Richard Hyrde’s English translation, The Instruction of a Christen Woman, of Juan Luis Vives’ De Institutione Feminae Christianae—in terms of their use of exempla related to women. These texts all find women good “to think with,” to use, from The Body and Society, Peter Brown’s appropriation of Levi-Strauss’s famous wordplay. The ways in which these Old English, Middle English, and modern English texts portray women’s lives and bodies as a gateway into thought about the Christian life are also compared with portrayals of the lives of female saints in hagiographic texts of late antiquity and the Middle Ages.

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