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Poster Girls of the Middle Ages

Posted By:  Liz Goodrich
Date Posted:  3/1/2004

In a program titled “Poster Girls of the Middle Ages,” Barbara Altmann, of the University of Oregon, introduces the female icons of days gone by at the Bend Public Library on Saturday, March 13, 2004 at 2:00 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.

Before Cindy Crawford, Farrah Fawcett, or Betty Grable there was Joan of Arc, Christine de Pizan and Eleanor of Aquitaine. They weren’t Super models but were real women who left a lasting legacy of culture and politics evident in the world today. The Middle Ages spanned the 1000 years following the fall of the Roman Empire, from the early Christian period to the Renaissance. Altmann, who is an Associate Professor of Romance Languages at University of Oregon and the acting director of the Oregon Humanities Center, says that when most people think of the Middle Ages they think of a time uncivilized, uncomfortable and primitive. “Medieval is often used as a pejorative adjective. You’ll be surprise how often you find it used in a negative way, once you start looking,” says Altmann. However, according to Altmann, the Middle Ages were a time marked by the development of many of the institutions on which Western societies are based, stunning architecture and great literature.

“How many women of the Middle Ages can you think of?” says Altmann, who make the point that “who and what we know about history depends on a great many things, including the availability and condition of information, as well who did the reporting.” According to Altmann, few women of the Middle Ages are remembered. During her presentation, Altmann examines those women, including a political leader, writer, artist and a mystic, who have become icons of the Middle Ages. Although women of the Middle Ages might not be considered feminist by today’s standards, Altmann uses the term “proto-feminist,” to describe women of the times. “What was very pro-woman in the Middle Ages might seem hopelessly conservative to us today, while it was actually daring for its age.”

For more information about this or other library programs, please call 312-1032 or visit www.dpls.lib.or.

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