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Reading Medieval European Women Writers

Strong Literary Witnesses from the Past

Albrecht Classen

Despite a modern tendency to describe medieval women as suppressed and marginalized, a critical reading of relevant texts by female poets/writers demonstrates that women all over Europe in the premodern era enjoyed considerable freedom to express themselves and to contribute to the literary discourse of their time. This book brings together representative poets from Germany, England, France, Spain, Hungary, and Austria and thus develops an innovative pan-European perspective spanning from the tenth to the sixteenth century. Well-known writers are as much included as some rather little studied individuals, who all form part of a strong choir of female voices.
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4. Leonor López de Córdoba (1363–1430)


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Chapter 4 Leonor López de Córdoba (1363–1430)

A Female Author In-Between Genres. Self-Reflection and Literary Self-Projection in Late Medieval Castilian Literature1

The topic of women’s history in the Middle Ages has already occupied many scholars worldwide, and this is the case in Spain as well to some extent. With Spain here I do not mean the modern state/nation, but the geo-political entity comprising various kingdoms—tentatively putting Portugal aside for purely practical reasons—and hence many different social and religious groups or political entities in the Iberian Peninsula prior to 1469 (Isabel I of Castilla and Ferdinand II of Aragón married in Valladolid on October 19 of that year, thus launching, so to speak, the modern state). The reasons for this great interest in women are many, but one stands out, above all, namely the interest today in previously muted voices, suppressed social groups, and hence our need today to understand better the social structures of past societies in Europe.

This struggle is ongoing, if not universal and throughout time, with a presumed majority repressing a presumed minority, or vice versa, as I have addressed it already in the Introduction and in the previous chapters. This also pertains to the way how scholarship is approaching past cultures, using a broad or a selective filter in recognizing or ignoring individual voices. Those, in turn, shed light on the broad gender discourse prevalent at that time, and, by the...

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