The Life of St Margaret of Antioch in Late Medieval England: A Gendered Reading

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This paper explores the possibilities of a feminist reading of the Middle English life of St Margaret of Antioch, whose status as a virgin-martyr is sometimes held to have made her an unattainable role model, suitable only for virgins who had dedicated themselves to God. Using both written and painted English narratives of St Margaret’s life dating mainly from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it shows that many elements of these could have been interpreted by all women as a validation of themselves and their experiences. The paper uncovers certain common themes and similarities of presentation, to see how far a general picture of Margaret emerges from them and what they say about the construction of femininity and the female. Although the narrative of the legend takes a variety of forms, both written and painted, it is sufficiently stable (largely ‘controlled’ by the Legenda Aurea) to allow different versions to be drawn on in this way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-142
Number of pages14
JournalStudies in Church History
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


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