Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Gender & Ecstasy

I received another acceptance to a conference today; better yet, it's in England. Hurrah! It's for the 2006 Gender and Medieval Studies Conference at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge. Here's the topic:

Joy of Warriors: Juliana’s Masculine Ecstasies

The Cynewulfian poem Juliana features a harsh connection between physical pain and spiritual ecstasy. The young virgin saint’s very body becomes the alchemical cauldron that converts the sadistic torture of her fiancé into a public spectacle of pious triumph. While the events take place in ancient Rome, Cynewulf’s singular vision replays the drama in the realm of Anglo-Saxon warrior poetics. Juliana’s power derives not just from her divine connection to the god who is the
wigena wyn (joy of warriors), but also from her embrace of hegemonic masculinity. Because heroic behavior to the Anglo-Saxon audience was equivalent to the strict warrior code, even female saints like Juliana (although this can apply as well to Judith and Elene) could become heroic by performing masculine behavior. Her appropriation of masculine vocabulary and action has immediate effects on those around her, including the demon she holds and tortures while herself in prison. The demon recognizes her as wigþrist ofer eall wifa cyn (most battle-ready of all woman kind) and the warriors gathered in the city respond to her courage with the clashing of weapons. In her final ecstatic speech of triumph before her martyrdom, Juliana employs martial language, reminding her audience to keep on their guard and watch for the clamor of battles. In Cynewulf’s heroic poem, the virgin saint transforms from a passive canvas for divine presence to an active warrior for ecstasy.

Even more fun, one of my colleagues also submitted an abstract, so it's quite possible we'll both be going (ahem, assuming our department can afford to send us).

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