Jacob Meck
Middle Ages
Professor Tracy
December 4, 2017


Medievalist for a Semester
Checkpoint 4


Abstract of Journal Article:
In Medieval literature, female heroines are few and far between. There are certainly plenty of female protagonists, for sure. But many female protagonists are relegated to being virgin saints or helpless victims to outside forces. Females heroes are somewhat rare, at least, when compared to their male counterparts. Heroic characters that feature extraordinary qualities and accomplish great deeds through their own initiative are predominately male, such as Beowulf or Egil. In comparison, female leads, such as Saint Margaret, are only special due to their divine or holy nature rather than any personal ability. This portrayal of women can be analyzed as somewhat demeaning, as it implies that women are capable only when a higher power is acting through them, as was the case when Saint Margaret survives a dragon.
The Old English rendition of the biblical story of Judith is noteworthy for portraying it's titular character as considerably more audacious and capable than most other female protagonists in Medieval literature. Judith, through both her depiction and her actions, adheres more towards a standard Old English hero than a heavenly saint. In a time of crisis, Judith While a case can be made that Judith falls in line with other saint tales due to the protagonist praying to God for the strength to accomplish her goal, I argue against that notion. Judith's prayer was very likely to be more of an allowance to commit murder rather than the actual reason she was able to carry the act out. Unlike a mutual battle or killing in self defense, decapitating an unconscious man could appear as immoral to an Old English audience, so I feel that this moment exists to justify Judith's actions rather than to say she is physically incapable of those actions.
The full journal article will further discuss the heroic qualities depicted in Judith, and how they compare to other medieval works. I feel that this is an important topic to analyze as there doesn't appear to be much Medieval literature that features prominent female heroines. In fact, when researching Medieval and Old English heroines, Judith repeatedly appeared in the results, without much else.



Annotated Citations:


1. “Woman as Hero In Old English Literature” by Jane Chance:
Weissman, Hope. “Woman as Hero in Old English Literature. Jane Chance.” Speculum, vol. 63, no. 1, 1988, pp. 134–136., doi:10.2307/2854337.


This textbook by author Jane Chance has been officially cited 159 times according to Google Scholar. Chance has written several textbooks on the subjects of medieval literature, Tolkien, and ancient myths. I feel that this is a trustworthy source as Chance possesses a long career of historical study and her work appears to be held in high regard by many. This textbook is especially relevant to my journal article due to it's narrow focus on the same subject manner.



2. “Judith and the Rhetoric of Heroism in Anglo-Saxon England” by Christopher Fee:
Fee, Christopher. “Judith and the Rhetoric of Heroism in Anglo-Saxon England.” English Studies, vol. 79, no. 5, 1997, pp. 401–406. Taylor and Francis .

Christopher Fee is a professor at Gettysburg University and the head of the English chair. He is the writer of several textbooks on Medieval and mythical stories. This article highlights the cultural perspective of heroism in Anglo-Saxon England and how it ties into the Old English rendition of Judith. Since my article will similarly focus on the heroic qualities depicted in the story, Fee's article proves to be an insightful source. This article has been cited 15 times.


3. “Inversion and Political Purpose in Old English Judith” by Alexandra Hennessy Olsen:
Olsen, Alexandra Hennessy. “Inversion and political purpose in the old English Judith.” English Studies, vol. 63, no. 4, 1982, pp. 289–293. Taylor and Francis, doi:10.1080/00138388208598186.

Author Alexandra Hennessy Olsen is an accomplished writer of dozens of textbooks and articles focusing on women in history. Olsen's article was published in 1982 has been cited 25 times, one of which being Hope Weissman's 2005 article that I annotated above. For these reasons I feel that Olsen would make an excellent source of useful information that can be used for my article.

Counter-argument to Article:
Author Jane Chance's article “Woman as Hero in Old English Literature” is a well written textbook featuring in-depth analysis of the portrayal of women in Medieval text. However, there is one article in the text that argues that in Beowulf, Grendel's Mother was created as a counter-depiction of female political hierarchy. I would argue against this notion, as while there does exist some evidence to backup this claim, I feel that it's a bit of a reach. Having the following monster for Beowulf to contend with being the parent of the previous one heightens the escalation of danger, as the new antagonist has more motivation to clash with Beowulf. The portrayal of Grendel's mother is compared by Chance to known depictions of traditional Old English female rulers, which comes across as a bit of a stretch. Chance states that Old English female rulers were usually depicted in a naturing, matriarchal manner, and that Grendel's mother is written as a twisted inverse of these traits. However, outside of the angle of revenge for the death of her son, the mother doesn't really embody the traits of a matriarch. I feel that without mentioning the monster as Grendel's Mother, there really isn't much to the character that represents a motherly figure.










Jacob Meck
Middle Ages
Professor Tracy
November 10, 2017


Medievalist for a Semester
Checkpoint 3


Annotated Bibliography:


1. Lucas, Peter J. “'Judith' and the Woman Hero.” The Yearbook of English Studies, vol. 22, 1992, pp. 17–27. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3508373.

Author Peter J. Lucas has written several books on English and Medieval studies. This excerpt from his book “The Yearbook of English Studies” compares Judith as a heroine to the rest of the world of Medieval literature. This essay has been cited 17 times.



2. Godfrey, Mary Flavia. “Beowulf and Judith: Thematizing Decapitation in Old English Poetry.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language, vol. 35, no. 1, 1993, pp. 1–43. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40754998.


“Beowulf and Judith: Thematizing Decapitation in Old English Poetry” by Mary Flavia Godfrey has been cited 25 times, including textbooks such as “Losing our Heads: Beheadings in Literature and Culture” by Regina James, “Monsters, Gender, and Sexuality in Medieval Literature” by Dana Oswald, and even by my third source. Godfrey is cited in the following essay, “Female Community in the Old English Judith” by Mary Dockray-Miller.


3. Dockray‐Miller, Mary. “Female community in the old English Judith.” Studia Neophilologica, vol. 70, no. 2, 1998, pp. 165–172. Taylor and Francis, Fitchburg State College, doi:10.1080/00393279808588228.

Mary Dockray-Miller is a professor at Lesley University and has written several textbooks on Old and Middle English topics. Her essay, “Female Community in the Old English Judith” has been cited 15 times in other works. The essay delves into the depiction of women in the text and how it relates to the cultural perception of women by the original author.

Reflection:
All three authors have a clear focus on Judith as a female heroine, and how this pertains to the rest of Old English literature as a whole. While Dockray-Miller and Lucas make this the main focal point of their writing, Godfrey also partially discusses Judith's female qualities to an extent. Godfrey explains how the use of violence (specifically decapitation) as a show of total power over an adversary is important in the context of Old English heroic literature, especially in the case of Beowulf and Judith. Godfrey makes the argument that in despite of biblical qualities, Judith functions much more as a warrior-epic than a religious tale. Lucas takes a more broad approach to Judith, discussing how Judith as a female hero is similar to other male heroic figures. Dockray-Miller on the contrary, examines the nuances of Judith's sex only within the constraints of the story itself, contrasting Judith to her maiden counterpart and the rest of the male cast. Dockray-Miller however, does list the differences between the various renditions of the Judith tale, such as the Old Testament, Old English, and Latin retellings. Lucas and Godfrey only use the Old English version of Judith in their writings. While that does coincide with the version I will be analyzing in the final paper, I also feel that having examinations of the alternate tellings of the story can be immensely useful when discussing differing cultural views towards women in Medieval literature. I feel that all three authors share valuable insight that can be used in my paper.


Research Query:

Something interesting to note in most scholarly examinations of Judith that I have read, is that the missing beginning section of the story is mostly glossed over. While the remaining text is certainly more than substantial enough to function as it's own story, the lack of a proper first half does imbue some uncertainty as to whether our understanding of the text is truly correct or not. Granted, it's true that we are only examining the text that does exist, but it is totally possible that the collective opinions of the story, characters, and motivations could be rendered misinformed or completely wrong by whatever the original intention of the author was. Without the missing piece, technically most analyses of Judith could just hypothetical at best. Perhaps this isn't particularly important, but with the (admittedly slim) possibility of any future unearthed manuscripts containing the beginning portion of the story could make all of my sources obsolete.