Woman and the Feminine in Medieval and Renaissance Literature

Module code: EN3124

Module co-ordinator: Dr Anne Marie D'Arcy

  • How was the subject of woman, and the feminine, represented in medieval and Renaissance literature? 
  • Do images constructed by male authority reflect what it was like to be a woman during these periods? 
  • Did women actually identify with these constructions? 

In this module, which is strongly interdisciplinary in focus, we will explore how woman is represented as the object of desire and the subject of blame, not only in various literary genres, but also in the visual arts from the 12th to the 16th centuries. 

We will also explore why the invisible world of ideas came to be represented in art and literature by such abstract, feminine constructions as Wisdom, Justice, Fame and Fortune. We will examine the literary, intellectual and cultural stereotypes embodied by woman, and the feminine, which were based on the classical legacy and the teachings of the Christian tradition, but we will also discuss the actual position and activities of women in contemporary society. In so doing, we will consider the formation and development of gender roles that continue to affect society to the present day.

You will already be familiar with most of the authors discussed in this module, which builds on the knowledge and understanding of medieval and Renaissance literature you have gained in the previous two years.

Topics covered


  • 20 one-hour seminars


  • Essay, 5,000 words (100%)