8 March 2021 - 8 March 2021
4:00PM - 5:00PM
Free to attend
A talk by Kristen Carella titled: Was Anyone Transgender in Early Medieval England?
Department of History Building
In this talk, I will consider the methodology and ethics of studying gender identity in medieval literary texts. It will consist of two parts. In the first part, I will examine some of the potential pitfalls involved when conducting such studies on narratives from the distant past that were produced by cultures that cannot be observed or interrogated by a researcher firsthand. In particular, I caution against the possibility of ethnocentrism in making such gestures and argue that culturally specific gender terminology cannot be responsibly deployed to describe gender-related phenomena in other cultures. In doing so, I add my voice to recent claims by certain cultural anthropologists who argue that to apply contemporary Western gender terminology cross-culturally is unethical, regardless of a researcher’s desire to further a (perhaps admirable) socio-political agenda within their own culture. I conclude this first part by proposing an alternative approach for the study of gender identity in medieval literary texts adapted from and informed by cultural anthropology. In the second part, I will provide a case study demonstrating how the method I propose can be applied to early medieval English literary texts.
Kristen Carella is Professor of English, Assumption University, Worcester, Massachusetts