Garden as Woman's Space in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Literature

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The purpose of this study is to examine a few literary gardens of romance from the close of the 12th to the first half of the 13th century in light of the development of the figure of the enclosed garden as a female space that is not owned by a man, but rather by the woman who inhabits it. In this scenario the woman is consistently seen as other, while the narrative directs the reader’s attention to the point of view of the man who is confronted with this inverted state of affairs. This unnatural situation sets up a power play between the genders that will be resolved only once the woman and her garden are brought to heel. The exception to this rule is the Virgin Mary, whose wonderful garden possesses no unnaturalness or witchcraft, for its exceptional qualities are a manifestation of the Virgin’s perfection.


"In her charming, challenging book, Elizabeth A. Augspach first explains how the Church fathers and the medieval biblical exegetes took Adam’s part, blaming Eve for tempting Adam to sin and, in the process, losing Eden for all their descendants. The purpose of Augspach’s book, however, is not to provide a survey of medieval misogyny. Rather, her concern is to describe the evolution of the hortus inversus, the garden turned inside-out. Though medieval exegesis blamed Eve and her daughters for the loss of Eden, Augspach points out that women never gave up possession of the magic place. The focus of her study is the varied ways in which the garden was associated with women. She describes how, in 12th and 13th century medieval literature, the garden eventually became the woman’s space and place and how, in various transmutations, it continues to be so today ... Because of its careful scholarship and the author’s firm command of several areas of research – women’s studies, medieval literature, biblical exegesis, liturgy, patristic scholarship, and ancient myth – Elizabeth Augspach’s book will appeal to a wide range of readers. One is constantly surprised, in reading the book, at the range of the author’s interests and at her ability to make connections between what, at first glance, appear to be unrelated materials. Much of the pleasure in reading the book is her style: she writes with the grace and intensity of someone who has been haunted by her subject." (From the Commendatory Preface) Professor William E. Coleman, City University of New York

"I have read with considerable pleasure and interest Dr. Elizabeth A. Augspach’s book on the association of representations of medieval gardens with female figures. Her study is sweeping in its chronological reach; it offers a well-developed focus on vernacular literary texts from religious and courtly narratives of the 12th-13th centuries; she demonstrates convincingly the origins and the opposing values of the gardens linked to the Virgin Mary and those controlled by unnatural fairy-like women who threaten the social order." - Professor Nancy Freeman Regalado, New York University

"[This work] explores across the long Middle Ages—from the patristic period through the thirteenth century---the growth of the complex vine that was the image of the enclosed garden. In a highly readable tour of texts ranging from commentaries on the Song of Solomon, to thirteenth-century collections of miracles of the Virgin, to vernacular romance and beyond, Augspach shows us how Biblical images of the hortus conclusus and the Garden of Paradise branched, intertwined, and grew back upon themselves. The garden may represent woman as intact virgin or a bazaar of sensual pleasures, as chthonic source or object of desire, as virtue personified or sin incarnate. As meanings shift and multiply, we come to realize anew the complexity and conflict inherent in medieval attitudes toward women and nature alike." - Professor Catherine McKenna, City University of New York

Table of Contents

The Gardens and Forests of Romance.
The Woman/Garden Relationship.
Chapter I: Virgo et Hortus Una Sunt
The Role of the Song of Solomon and Christian Exegesis in the Development of the Hortus Conclusus as Female Space.
The Rise of the Cult of the Virgin Mary.
The Relationship between Mary and the Hortus Conclusus.
Chapter II: Virgo in Horto Domina Est
The Rise of Romance Hagiography and Miracle Collections.
The Virgin as Owner of the Garden in Gonzalo de Berceo’s Introduction to the Milagros de Nuestra Señora.
Chapter III: Mulier Domina Venefica Est
Syncretism of Religious and Secular Language.
The Lady of Romance and the Garden.
The Sorceress as Owner of a Garden and Controller of Men.

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