Volume 13.1, 2016

Gendered Spaces — Hortulus 13.1 (Autumn 2016)

Letter from the Editor


Challenging Masculine Discourses of Violence: Posthumanist Approaches to the Figure of the Morrígan in Táin Bó Cúailnge–By Elizabeth Kempton

Elizabeth Kempton’s article draws on Donna Haraway’s cyborg theory and on her more recent thinking about companion species to explore the ways in which the Morrígan, an early Irish battle and prophetic figure, serves as a destabilizing presence in the Táin Bó Cúailnge [The Cattle Raid of Cooley], a work traditionally considered as defining Irish heroic masculinity. Through her multiplicity of forms and occasional disembodiment, the Morrígan can be read as a form of cyborgian networked identity, embodying the ethical responsibility between the subject and the environment. Furthermore, in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, the Morrígan’s prophecies serve to highlight the bodily destruction and chaos caused by war, thus undermining the text’s supposed focus on victory and on the political power transferred by war, and acting as a critique of violence within the Irish social system. The prophecy also extends her sense of embodiment, both physically and temporally. Her hypermobility, in turn, functions as a sort of technical prosthesis: as a haunting feminine presence she embeds herself within the battlefield, a site for the formation of masculine virtue within the text, challenging its gendered spaces. The Morrígan is by no means a pacifist figure, but her bodily transformations, use of prophecy, and the content of her prophecies serve to highlight and question the structures of martial violence upon which the Tain Bo Cuailnge is built. My reading contributes to an understanding of the complexity of female deities in Irish mythology and a questioning of the representation of the early Irish social and political systems that are deeply ingrained in the Táin Bó Cúailnge.

The Revenant: Essentialist Gender Norms in Medieval English History–By Candace Reilly

Candace Reilly’s study provides a commencing analysis of the gender antitheses of the revenant, walking dead, as represented in eleventh and twelfth century English chronicles. Depictions of the undead are analyzed in a literary and historical framework, which gesture towards beliefs in an essentialist societal, gender-structured post-mortem culture. This article seeks to make aware the dichotomy of power given, or used, by the undead in the liminal place between death and the final afterlife. Texts are closely analyzed of the contemporary historical chronicles and religious treatises- specifically the accounts of William of Newburgh, Walter Map, William of Malmesbury, and one fifteenth century Middle English poem “A Disputacion Betwyx the Body and Wormes”. In solidifying the belief in the undead and their welcomed credence during a time of eschatological uncertainty, this study demonstrates the importance of the undead and how the specific representations of each gender was an amplified reflection of the dualistic gender norms played by the living. Further, it is suggested that despite the supernatural attributes assigned to the undead, female revenants were placed consistently in a submissive role to men, alive and dead, which ascribes a masculine-centric world following death.


BOOK REVIEW: The Immaculate Conception: Why Thomas Aquinas Denied, While John Duns Scotus, Gregory Palamas, and Mark Eugenicus Professed the Absolute Immaculate Existence of Mary–Review by Andrew Jacob Cuff

BOOK REVIEW: Indecent Exposure: Gender, Politics, and Obscene Comedy in Middle English Literature–Review by Micah Goodrich

BOOK REVIEW: The Bishop of Rome in Late Antiquity–Review by Zachary Porcu

BOOK REVIEW: The Manly Priest: Clerical Celibacy, Masculinity, and Reform in England and Normandy–Review by Natalie Whitaker

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