Deviant Women in Courtly and Popular Medieval Castilian Poetry

Deviant Women in Courtly and Popular Medieval Castilian Poetry

By Naomi May Jensen Hoogesteger

PhD Dissertation, University of Durham, 2011

Abstract: This thesis is a study of the figure of the deviant woman in the poetry of medieval Spain; it outlines and establishes paradigms of acceptable and unacceptable attitudes and behaviours.

The ideal comportment of woman in the Middle Ages is decreed by the Church and the aristocracy. However, woman is wont to rebel against the strict norms of patriarchy laid down for her. Through close poetic analysis, this thesis aims to expose and analyse women who deviate from the ideal, an axis which is based upon the ideal woman of Fray Martín Alonso de Córdoba’s Jardín de nobles donzellas (1469) and supported by historical contextualisation. Due to the expanse of the medieval poetic corpus, I focus specifically on women in the forms of medieval poetry that were sung: villancicos, canciones, and also serranillas, a strand of the erudite canción. The poems originate in Iberian songbooks (cancioneros), and loose leafs (pliegos sueltos). The modern editions that I use are Brian Dutton & Jineen Krogstad’s El cancionero del siglo XV: c. 1360-1520 (1990-91) and Margit Frenk’s Nuevo corpus de la antigua lírica popular hispánica (siglos XV a XVII) (2003).

Initially, I establish the paradigm of the ideal late-medieval woman, whose subservience, chastity, and beauty are at the fore of her representation. Throughout the thesis, deviant women are seen to subvert these expectations in a variety of ways; principally through their promiscuity and dominant manner. Although for the most part, deviant women are portrayed in lyrics, the canciones also provide portrayals of deviant women that are less perceptible, yet still fascinating. An overall typology of deviant women has been established through the thesis, but equally significantly, close readings of many of the poems will augment the comprehension of the wider corpus.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Durham

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