Violence Against Women in Medieval Martyr Legends

Violence Against Women in Medieval Martyr Legends

By María Beatriz Hernández Pérez

Paper given at the 8th Global Conference: Violence and the Contexts of Hostility (2009)

Introduction: Among the records expressing medieval attitudes on violence, those provided by hagiography may offer specific and enriching insights. This paper will focus on medieval female hagiography as a genre that not only contributed to the development of the notion of divine sacrifice, but that also conditioned the social response to violence against women during the Middle Ages. In the quest for the bonds between sex and violence, feminist authors have turned, among others, to the study of religious issues and their anthropological interpretations. Among these, René Girard‟s approach to communal violence remains a vital theoretical construction. Departing from such notion, he perceives certain affinities between violence and sex:

Like violence, sexual desire tends to fasten upon surrogate objects if the object to which it was originally attracted remains inaccessible; it willingly accepts substitutes. And again like violence, repressed sexual desire accumulates energy that sooner or later bursts forth, causing tremendous havoc.

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