‘Nec ancilla nec domina’: Representations of Eve in the Twelfth Century
By Gemma Wain
PhD Dissertation, Durham University, 2012
Abstract: This thesis seeks to demonstrate the extent to which the figure of Eve operated in twelfth-century commentary on Genesis as a crucial means by which to examine some of the most fundamental and problematic areas of the hexaemeron and fall narratives.
Amid the twelfth-century’s flourishing corpus of writing on the creation and fall of mankind, Eve emerges not as an expedient model of female iniquity or a credulous victim of diabolic casuistry, but as a valued equivalent and peer to Adam (‘nec ancilla nec domina sed socia’, in the words of Hugh of St Victor).
Moreover, Eve lies at the heart of twelfth-century debate surrounding the challenging issues of how and why mankind was created, why the existence of sin and evil was permitted, the action of temptation and sin, and the composition of the created world.
However, there has been no substantial treatment of representations of Eve in the central middle ages, and modern scholarship has frequently been content to assume that medieval responses to the first woman are universally misogynistic. This thesis aims both to address this historiographical lacuna, and to examine the hitherto neglected function of Eve as a means by which to elucidate some of the major theological and philosophical preoccupations of this formative period.
In order to do this, the thesis examines representations of Eve as the first woman (Chapter I), the first wife/mother (Chapter II) and the first sinner (Chapter III) in a corpus of texts centred around six of the major twelfth-century treatments of Eve and the creation/fall narrative. These are Guibert of Nogent’s Moralia in Genesim, Abelard’s Expositio in hexameron, Hugh of St Victor’s De sacramentis, Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias, Peter Lombard’s Sentences, and the Anglo-Norman Mystère d’Adam.