Dr. Kathy M. Krause (Professor of French, Dept of Foreign Languages & Literatures, University of Missouri-Kansas City), "'Son païs sostenoit en vigor': Portraying the Countesses of Boulogne"
Recently, feminist historians have been successfully challenging the idea that medieval noblewomen of the European central Middle Ages were denied public power and authority, or that women who inherited served only to transmit their authority from their fathers to their husbands. Expanding these arguments to the literary sphere, I contend that we can see the impact of female inheritance and lordship in the literature produced in northern France and in particular in Picardy – well known for being at the forefront of Old French literary production at that time – and vice versa, that the literature of the era provides us with insights into contemporary perceptions of female inheritance and lordship. This talk will focus on the literary texts produced in the orbit of the countesses of Boulogne, as that county offers an extreme case of female lordship: five women in a row inherited over a span of nearly 150 years, from Mathilde de Boulogne in 1125 to Adelaïde de Brabant who died in 1265. The vernacular literature of Boulogne allows us to perceive the comital family’s ideological negotiation of its historical and political reality, a reality shaped in large part by the succession of female heirs.
Part of the Gender and Sexuality in the Middle Ages – Crafting a Lexicon Project.