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Middle-Aged Women in the Middle Ages


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The phenomenon of medieval women's middle age is a stage in the lifecycle that has been frequently overlooked in preference for the examination of female youth and old age. The essays collected here, ranging from the Anglo-Saxon to the late medieval period, and drawing variously from literary studies, history, law, art and theology, address this lacuna. Taking a variety of critical approaches, the contributors consider medieval definitions, paradigms and experiences of female middle age, analysing how the middle-aged woman perceived herself subjectively, as well as how she was perceived by others. They seek to challenge the received wisdom that in the middle ages, at forty, women were deemed "old" and, from that point onwards, their thoughts should be focused on preparing for death. On the contrary, this collection demonstrates their energy, defiance and wit.

Sue Niebrzydowski is Lecturer in English, Bangor University, Wales.

Contributors: Jane Geddes, Clare A. Lees, Carol M. Meale, Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker, Sue Niebrzydowski, Raluca L. Radulescu, Sara Elin Roberts, Corinne Saunders, Diane Watt.


[T]his examination of (mainly) lay and non-royal women [...] is timely, and it is illuminating as it draws our attention to the difficulties inherent in any such study. [...] Niebrzydowski and her colleagues deserve our gratitude. ÓENACH


First Published: 15 Dec 2011
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843842828
9 black and white illustrations
Pages: 168
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: D.S.Brewer

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction: 'Becoming bene-straw': The Middle-aged Woman in the Middle Ages
  • 2  
  • 3  The Age of Discretion: Women at Forty and Beyond
  • 4  Seeking the Middle-Aged Woman in Medieval Wales
  • 5  Middle Age in Romance? Magic, Enchantment and Female Power
  • 6  Age and Desire in the Old English Life of Mary of Egypt: A Queerer Time and Place?
  • 7  The St Albans Psalter: Sex, Desire and the Middle-aged Woman
  • 8  Speaking Volumes: the Middle Aged Woman and the Book in Medieval England
  • 9  'Late hir seye what sche wyl': Older Women's Speech and the Book of Margery Kempe
  • 10  Preparing for Mature Years: the Case of Margaret of Anjou and her Books
  • 11  Bibliography