Authorship and Authority:

Barking Abbey and Its Texts

Martin E. Segal Theater

CUNY Graduate Center, September 11, 2009


“Educating Catherine: Clemence and Her Counterparts”

Tara Foster, Northern Michigan University

At Barking Abbey, a premier site of female intellectual and literary activity, a nun who identifies herself as Clemence composes a new vernacular version of the Life of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.  The legend of Saint Catherine, as Roberta Krueger remarks,  “doubtless held particular attraction for literate nuns and for noblewomen who prized learning,” and one might suppose that the saint’s schooling would draw Clemence’s attention.  This essay will focus on the treatment of the theme of education, examining Clemence’s twelfth-century Anglo-Norman redaction in conjunction with the three other Francophone verse Lives of the saint, all composed in the thirteenth century: those of Gui, Aumeric, and an anonymous Picard redactor.  As is the case with a number of themes and episodes in the Life, Clemence’s handling of the saint’s education differs significantly from that of her thirteenth-century counterparts.  This essay will seek to explore the implications of those differences as well as the links drawn between education and translatio by the various redactors.

Last modified: May 6, 2009
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