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ENGL 188 - Final thesis draft!

ENGL 188 - Final thesis draft! - Carlson 1 Mallory Carlson...

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Carlson 1 Mallory Carlson Professor Brown ENGL 188 18 April 2008 Hagiography as Education: Rhetorical Religiosity in the works of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim and Christine de Pizan According to Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, “hagiography is propaganda” (157). In light of propaganda’s inherent ability to promote ideology through language (whether written or spoken), we might consider it to be closely related to education. Education and propaganda essentially perform the dissemination of information to groups of individuals; however, propaganda has a generally negative connotation due to its tendency to impose misleading and/or biased information (OED). Propaganda is decidedly more forceful in its approach to informing the public, but if the information is morally constructive and faith-strengthening, then propaganda can function as a positive moral tool for society. Thinking of hagiography as propaganda, then, encourages us to think of it as a means of education. Within this context, the drama Sapientia by Hrotsvit of Gandersheim and Le Livre de la Cité des Dames by Christine de Pizan gain significance as hagiographical texts insofar as they position the familiar lives of Christian saints as examples of female greatness at its peak. It makes sense, then, that both women have a feminist agenda in their writing; Hrotsvit wishes to reply to Terence’s depiction of women while Christine’s primary concern is to defend all women against the misogynistic tradition of medieval literature. Both medieval women writers use their educated rhetoric to write authoritatively within the genre of female hagiography in order to encourage the practice of female education and support a pro-feminist view of women.
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Carlson 2 Living under the rule of Otto I, Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (c. 935-c.975) wrote during a flourishing period of Christian spirituality and education. In the tenth century, monasteries were an integral part of noble Saxon culture; Suzanne Fonay Wemple asserts that “the foremost reason for the proliferation of monasteries – both male and female – was the Ottonians’ preference for monastic life,” which is to say, a life devoted entirely to cloistered contemplation, prayer, and community work (41). This royal preference for living a devoutly Christian life gave Christian women the extraordinary opportunity to gain access to scholastic and religious education, especially since Christianity is one of the three religions of the book. As such, monasteries were furnished with texts both literary and religious that, along with the monastic environment, provided the perfect opportunity for learning among men and women. As a canoness at Gandersheim Abbey, one of Saxony’s most independent and wealthiest religious communities, Hrotsvit used her monastic education to manifest her creative talents. In this way, her education became the direct means of actualizing her own agency.
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ENGL 188 - Final thesis draft! - Carlson 1 Mallory Carlson...

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