Lecture Series: Between Invisibility and Autonomy: Negotiating Gender Roles in Manuscript Cultures (Universität Hamburg)

Organized by Professor Dr Eike Grossmann & Dr Johanna Seibert.

Mondays, 6:00 – 8:00 PM (UTC+1) ; hybrid format (Universität Hamburg Pavilion CSMC; Zoom)

Women’s contributions to the production and use of written artefacts have been neglected or even made invisible in many manuscript cultures. Their agency being written out is only one of the numerous blind spots when pursuing a gender perspective in the study of manuscript cultures. The aim of this lecture series is to explore precisely these blind spots by raising questions which enable us to grasp the multiple roles women have in manuscript cultures. At the center of each lecture lies the question of how women contribute to the production, circulation, and dissemination of manuscripts, inscriptions, graffiti, and other written artefacts. Did they function as patrons or scribes? If they were allowed to write in the first place, what kind of artefacts were they expected to produce? In which ways did female production of written artefacts subvert the existing order and modes of gendered dominance? Or did their actions possibly contribute to supporting, stabilizing, and perpetuating their own disadvantage? How was their exclusion then rationalized and explained in cases where they were denied active (and passive) participation in manuscript cultures?

It is through perspectives such as these that women’s roles in historic and contemporary manuscript cultures become visible. Exploring a range of materials—liturgic, devotional, biographic, among many others, from ancient Assyria and Egypt to medieval Japan and Central Europe and on to today’s Thailand and Northern Africa—the speakers shed light on new findings, give unique insights into their fields, and discuss methodological considerations.

The lectures will be held in a hybrid format and are open to all who wish to attend. Zoom links will be distributed in September 2022. For more information regarding the lecture series, please visit: https://www.csmc.uni-hamburg.de

Click here to view the lecture schedule

24 October 2022
“Gender Studies and Manuscript Cultures: The Case of Assyriology”
Professor Dr Dr h.c. Cécile Michel
Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Nanterre / Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures,
Universität Hamburg

31 October 2022
“In Her Own Voice: Asserting Autonomy Through Liturgy at Klosterneuburg”
Michael L. Norton, Associate Professor Emeritus
James Madison University (Virginia, US)

07 November 2022
“Women in Thai-Lao Manuscript Cultures: Alternative Worship of Text(ile) in Compensation of Monkhood”
Dr Silpsupa Jaengsawang
Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Universität Hamburg

21 November 2022
“Women as Scribes: Materials, Methods, and Motives in Medieval Italy and Beyond”
Dr Melissa Moreton, Research Associate
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

28 November 2022
“Women and Their Multiple Roles in Manuscript Production in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Low Countries”
Dr Patricia Stoop
Institute for the Study of Literature in the Netherlands (ISLN) / Ruusbroecgenootschap, Universiteit Antwerpen

12 December 2022
“Women as Scribes in Jewish Manuscript Cultures”
Dr Michael Kohs
Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Universität Hamburg

19 December 2022
“Patrons of Paper and Clay: Methods for Studying Women’s Religiosity in Ancient Japan”
Dr Bryan Lowe, Assistant Professor
Princeton University

09 January 2023
“Nuns, Domestic Virgins, and Female Devotees in Late Antique Egypt: Evidence From Greek and Coptic Graffiti, Papyri, and Other Written Artefacts”
Leah Mascia, MA
Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Universität Hamburg

16 January 2023
“Vanished from the Pages: The Female Scribe in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis and the Transformation of Mexican Manuscript Cultures in the Early Colonial Period”
Dr Anna Boroffka
KEK, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin / Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures,
Universität Hamburg

23 January 2023
“Female Contributions to Islamic Text Production and Circulation”
Professor Dr Britta Frede
Islamic Studies / Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, Universität Bayreuth


Published by Blair Apgar

Blair (they/them) recently completed their PhD in History of Art at the University of York with Hanna Vorholt and Amanda Lillie. Their thesis focused on the role of Matilda of Canossa in the sociopolitical development of the Investiture Controversy, and its relationship to Matilda’s material patronage. As an early career researcher, their work aims to unpack the historiographic construction of powerful medieval women’s legacies. They are also interested in the representation of the Middle Ages in modern media.

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