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New Medieval Books: Hawking Women: Falconry, Gender, and Control in Medieval Literary Culture

Hawking Women: Falconry, Gender, and Control in Medieval Literary Culture

By Sara Petrosillo

The Ohio State Univerity Press
ISBN: 9780814215487

An examination of medieval texts about falconry and other literature and what it can tells us about attitudes towards women, and how women themselves challenged those views. Many of these texts about how to control hawks can also be read in how to control women, and thus reveals a lot about ideas on gender in the Middle Ages.


This book situates representations of falconry training at the intersection of conduct books for women and poetics treatises in its feminist formalist approach to a material practice. The titular hawking women find a multiplicity of representation in medieval culture: in lyric and narrative poetry they are falconers with their own hawks, they are symbolized by female hawks themselves, and they occupy both positions: they are the addressees of hawking and conduct manuals; they choose to represent themselves with hawks in iconography; even their anatomy is symbolized by falconry birds, for metaphoric as well as philological reasons. The Old French pun faucon, which signified both “falcon” and “false cunt,” imbued literary and visual references with a joke about the impossibility of control over female chastity.


Who is this book for?

This book looks at interesting corner of medieval culture – the training of falcons and hawks – and tells us what it reveals about men and women and their attitudes towards each other. It offers insights that will be useful for those who study gender in the Middle Ages as well as literature during this period. Those focusing on medieval falconry will need to have a copy. The appendix at the end of the book explaining the terminology associated with falconry is really helpful too.

The author

Sara Petrosillo is an Assistant Professor of English literature at the University of Evansville, where she focuses on feminist theories, manuscript studies, and poetics in the Middle Ages. A self-described “falconry fangirl”, Petrosillo not only researches falconry but takes part in it herself, which enables her to offer a lot of practical knowledge too. You can visit her personal website or follow Sara on Twitter @SPetrosillo


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