Thursday, January 22, 2009

Week of January 30

Please respond to one ore more of the following readings:

Whitney Chadwick, “The Renaissance Ideal,” Chapter 2, Women, Art, and Society, 4th ed. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007), pp. 66-86.

Genesis 1-3 New Oxford Annotated Bible [NOAB].
Luke 1: 26-55 NOAB.
Ephesians 5: 21-25 NOAB.

Christine de Pizan, Excerpts from The Book of the City of Ladies, rev. ed., trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards (New York: Persea Books, 1988).

Henry Kraus, “Eve and Mary: Conflicting Images of Medieval Woman,” in Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1982), pp. 78-99.

Margaret R. Miles, “The Virgin’s One Bare Breast: Nudity, Gender, and Religious Meaning in Tuscan Early Renaissance Culture,” in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992), pp. 26-37.


  1. from last week's readings, the idea of the binary really stuck out to me, esp. one in particular: male knowledge vs female intuition. while reading b4 friday's class i tried to figure out why a woman's intuition is so much more acute compared to a mans. i have a theory which i discussed with a few. i believe that since women can carry a child, another person, another consciousness, their sensory perception may somehow be heightened by this. a 9 month duality of thinking, feeling, and being as one - yet two. this could account for the strength of a woman's intuition. on that note, another funny thing about binary systems: 0 and 1 in a computer's code could just as easily be Vagina and Penis.

  2. This is not my official blog entry. I can’t find the readings for Friday on the server and was hoping someone could shed some light on to the whereabouts of these readings.

    Oh, by the by, “Artemisia” is not at Midtown video so don’t bother. I need to rent it because unfortunately I am incapable of missing the Super Bowl (don’t judge). Anyone know where to get it?


    Kevin at

  3. Not my official post either, but...

    I'm not sure where to get Artemisia, but once someone finds it would anyone else (who can't stand to miss the Super Bowl) want to meet and watch it together? That way we can have some discussion, as well as saving money by not each having to rent it individually? Just an idea.

  4. I really think the superbowl is worth missing, but that is my own bs. Have you tried at Black Lodge? Personally, i wouldn't go anywhere else to rent. They have everything, and will order something cool like this if they don't already have it. its on cooper. No late fees, and nice ppl.

    As far as woman having any special intuition(i realize this blog is for discusing the readings, which i will, but i can't help myself) it kinda just sounds like wives' tale nonsense. Really, are we so fantastic? My sister carried a baby for nine months and aside from some freak skin reaction to her vitamins there was no 6th sense sprouting. Could it be that women just play a more active role in the child's life and is therefore more "aware" of where the child is and what she is doing and is in tune with her personal signs of hunger/fear/happiness? Perhaps if men took on a more active role in parenting and didn't traditionally stick to one of gaurded disiplinarian(i am being very broad, please excuse)(i also think i just misspelled like 10 words)...perhaps if fathers played the very close role of mother they would not mystify women, but understand that it is familiarity not magic.

  5. "the other renaissance"

    Okay, so... I was on some sort of high after reading this. I guess i never searched for proof of female artists in this time...not really sure...but just the proof, the idea that these women were/worked and worked well as artists during this time made some flicker in my head and some sort of happiness in me for like eight hours.
    Where are these women's names? Was i asleep in my art survey? Surely i missed something? Why so few?
    Apparently no one believed it in their time either, as Sirani worked outside to prove it.
    Not sure where i will go with this next comment, but i wrote down over and over in my notes on it with comments like "(plutarch) the defect of nature" p. 104 women who prove their virtue through individual acts of bravery can become almost like men---> "eroticizes the act of valor"
    The whole standard for women is so warped, i mean, how do we ever dig our way out of man's gaze? The feminine is only measured next to the masculine, and the nonfeminine is the same... how do we make/find a place of our own when the game is so rigged?

    anybody wonder what "torture by thumbscrew" was all about?

  6. Ruth 1-4 (NOAB)
    why, when ruth went to lay at Boaz's feet, did she uncover them first? what is the significance of this?

    also, i threw up a little in my mind when i read, "to perpetuate the name of the dead", and words like "transaction" in regard to Ruth.

  7. Hey all,

    I WILL put a copy of Artemisia on reserve (or I will make it available some other way if you all prefer) so that you can watch it outside of the special screening.

    Right now I have a Netflix copy in my possession which I am willing to lend to class members so that you can watch it. If you want to watch it before I screen it on Sunday, contact me directly and we'll arrange something. By the way, it is 96 minutes long.

    --Ellen D

  8. If I remember correctly bare feet were a symbol. The "uncovering" (removing the sandles) and washing of feet in Biblical days was the lowest of low servant jobs. I'm not for sure but it might be a sign of women's work. OR respect. Another part of the Bible, Jesus Christ cleaned the feet of some travelers, a sign that he was willing to be their equal. Like I said, I'm not sure, haven't read it in full yet.

    I was really drawn to the reading on the Virgin's bare breast. What really drew me to this was the progression. Of both women's postion in soceity as well as the pro/degression of how the imagery was transulated. Near the beginning, the Virgin Mary was viewed as the high mother, a woman in which to be a idol or model for all women. At this time then, women were encouraged in their independence and stature. Then Mary was simply a human who gave Jesus his human life/nourishment. Women now were strong and HAD this power, which frightened men. So men influenced change to keep women in check.

    SO! Yet again we see men FEAR women's "power." Just like we were discussing last week in class. I see a reoccuring theme best question now is..what is power?

    Is it an ability? Or a sense? Or a fully mental game?

  9. In one passage of "Eve and Mary: Conflicting Images" it says, "And the monk, Bernard de Besse, warned his confreres against even touching their baby sister's hands" as a church's rule.

    I couldn't help but think to myself- but why? Why does a rule like this exist? Children are innocent.. except for the belief that they were born with 'original sin'. I found that one of the most surprising things I read. Also, just a general history of women's roles in relation to church beliefs an art was interesting to read through. the significant change in womens rights came around when women were allocated land through inheritance or through marriage. I dont have any questions about any of it though, everything is pretty clear-cut. If I do though, I'll be sure to post them later today.

  10. reading part of Pizan(BCL) i got to a part where one of the ladies aiding her says "evil spoken of women only hurts those who speak it, not women themselves" and this is troubling. It is almost like the age old "don't fight back, just pray or love your enemy" or something. How can women overcome patriarchy but still support christianity? I mean, there are only 1,000 images of woman as evil,temptress, and monster.

    (chadwick) maybe though, christianity isn't the problem...further, past even cultural ideology...economics? It is beginning to get scary here. "cultural ideology---roots the shift from painter to object" yes, it is evident that our culture played the part of director/limiter for women from maker to muse, from producer to representation, but is it a far cry from reducing the agency of woman to producer of children? i mean, think about it: Take woman, remove education and tell her that she is bound forever to listen to man, and what do you have? Mother/slave/ producer of workers...or vessel for lineage.

    Teach her just enough so that she may be proficient at tasks(manual labor) that we say suit her, and make her just dumb enough to never rise above her place.
    In the text I found a part that mentions "Prescriptive literature contributed to shaping women's lives and participation in general economic and public life" (novels?)
    Pretty much everything in our society promotes "containing" women, limiting mobility.
    ESPECIALLY the arts, which is a "position of mobility"
    also continue Outside the house to be education, and women are Contained within the home to be given christian/moral training.

  11. Even the portraits of women are interesting, because the male gaze views the woman herself with the same amount of interest and value as the objects that surround her. the pearls,silks, brocades say as much about her if not more about her than she is able to display/impart with her own body. a "decorous piece" in the picture plane. it is weird that femininity in the profile portraits is linked directly to the signifying objects within it.
    Alberti: "seek moral and spiritual qualities in a bride"--posing to be inspected. The "severe poses" and the inheritance(goods) together to be judged by the male gaze. To buy or not to buy?
    I find that the mix of wealth and moral virtue in a bride strange, like some stamp on a cow's ass, one that signifies her ability to contribute to a man a life of service, wealth, and more than that...the "spiritual qualities"....meaning, not only will she know her place, she will believe the bullshit, too. Interesting. does the religion serve to not only help contain woman and promote those in power, but create a seal, a wax, leak proof seal that would answer any questions and quell any rebellion woman might have.

  12. One last interesting passage: "as long as she (anguissola) stressed her status as a gentlewoman, her actions as a painter did not conflict with the ideology of Renaissance womanhood outlined in Castiglione's Courtier."

    So, we may be a "prodigy of nature" but not an artist? Had she pushed to sell her work, or even try to be anything more than anything but a woman as close to male perfection as possible, then she would have been shut down?

    as long as she enforced the b.s.-she was tolerated?

  13. I missed last week’s class, but in the act of trying to catch up, I did the readings. I quickly became fascinated with how women in society during the renaissance where respected and said to be equal to that of men as long as they only did the respected women’s tasks. This forced them to only do art that they could use or transfer back to marriage life, like decorating for ones table.
    I was shocked, while being pleased to see that some women actually took the time to learn to paint. In being a painter myself, if id lived during this period I know my art would be nothing like it is today, because only the men were able to have proper training. Women could only paint other women, children, still life’s of things around the house or landscapes. This is really heartbreaking, because the men were going underground and studying dead human bodies to get every detail just right. If women could have done this I can just picture what the figures of churches could have looked like. Where the men so afraid of have their being a true Renaissance-woman? I believe that behind every great man is an even better woman, to back him up with advice. Which gets me thinking that the women of such a period had to be brilliant, especially if women could of been given the chance to be educated.

  14. “Much of this elevated the Virgin to a position that tended to put her out of reach of the ordinary woman.”

    This to me seems as if there is another category you have the two extremes (neither one being the true ideal women) the “non-woman Woman”, “ a member of the Devil’s team”, then the “ordinary woman”.

    While yet the ordinary women neither evil nor saint had a very low view but why?
    Why would the happy medium pose such a lowly status. What I don’t understand is when the saint is humanly impossible to achieve, but when the female is not the serpent entwined figure, she is then deemed as ordinary? Ordinary, everday, regular, common, which has a bad connotation when referring to the binary or the female.

    I am just stuck with even the idea of the binary, because in this time if that’s what women were compared to nobody could measure up and every female could have a streak of Eve within her, that would ultimately be a sign of her inheritance to bring down the man.

    And even as we see a change as far as the images of the medieval woman the hint of sunshine for the way women were perceived was “the rehabilitation of a fallen woman by an honest man”

    Was there even truly a change towards better? “the Church’s view of woman: once fallen and forever after prone.” We see a few visual changes in the 13th century, but was that starting to be a popular ideal that hey maybe it wasn’t just the women who took the fruit of temptation?

    Going back to the beginning, how can man or more the church see woman as evil if they came from the man, What sex/gender was the serpent that was harboring the evil act? Because even if the male blindly took the fruit from the woman her intention was not to bring man down from that point on.

  15. One of the most striking point expressed in The Virgin's One Bare Breast is the interpretation of Mary's breast being identified or associated with power, being physical or social. I feel it is somewhat easy to accept or understand ideas of nourishment, dependency, or the ability to sustain human life, but I never quite considered any of relating to power. Essentially it makes plenty sense especially when linking power to strength, strength to nourishment. I guess I just never thought about it directly. It was a satisfying surprise.


    Including Michelle's comments on feet in biblical reference feet was also a form of hospitality. I think its in the book of Luke or something like that. Jesus is invited to have dinner and ends up getting his feet washed by a random sinful woman and the host of the house is disturbed because she's so sinful, so he questions Jesus, who explains to the host that this random woman who doesn't live here and has many sins loved so much that she washed my feet with her tears and expensive oils and you did nothing.

    I'm pretty sure that's how the story goes, but you can probably google it or something.

  16. Forgive me for a moment but I tend to think somewhat off topic when reading or doing anything for that matter...when reading Luke 1 I began to question for what reason did Mary have to conceive a boy? Could it have been that from the "beginning" i.e. the creation of man and woman that females have been considered "sinner"? So, had she conceived a girl, her daughter wouldn't have been "great" as Gabriel mentions when speaking to Mary? I'm sorry I just don't get it. Jesus is considered a man who knows no evil and is pure and holy--the Son of the Most High. Why are men always getting the credit? Jesus couldn't have been a woman?

  17. For me there is a significant difference between reading the argumentative bias of the essays and then reading passages from the bible and trying to decipher just what it is I’m supposed to agree with or take umbrage with. Being raised Catholic it was fairly taboo to raise questions about the bible and I was definitely subject to a sugar coated, water downed interpretation of the scriptures having gone through 9 years of Sunday school. If you thought something was full of crap you just kept it to yourself. It gets easier to filter out the crap as you get older especially when you live in the Bible belt. I spent some time working on Beale Street and many a Friday and Saturday night I bore witness to armies of religious zealots who carry the most offensive bigoted signs you could imagine while shouting hateful propaganda. The crap is easily filtered when it is smacking you in the face. There must be something to the notion that such a “powerful” book is the source of such misdirection, confusion and hate in this world.
    I use those same eyes I see those nuts with to view excerpts from the Bible that Professors deem intriguing or significant. Skeptical eyes. Luke 1:26-56 seems to me to be about ingraining this sense of duty to young women about the importance bearing children, especially male children. Gabriel explains to Mary how gosh darn lucky she is to bear the fruit of the Lord. Everything that happens in the Bible happens for a reason. Every occurrence must serve as an allegory for all other occurrences. God looks to his “favored ones” to complete these incredible tasks and then shows them it’s possible by relating it to similar stuff done by similar people. In the case of Luke 1:26, the allegory for Mary, Elizabeth and every little girl reading the Bible is that it is a woman’s undeniable duty to bear children for the kingdom of the Lord.
    And what about the idea of relating the fact that Mary is considered to be a “favored one” to the fact the she is supposedly a virgin. This sends a message that the only way a young woman could be worthy of the “prestige” of carrying a Godly seed is to not have been tainted by any previous relations. If you want to be close to God, you have to be “clean”.
    The same ideas about duty can be said when discussing Genesis. God felt sorry for Adam and he creates Eve to entertain him. God uses man to make woman to entertain man. The message here is woman cannot exist without man and her first job on this planet is to keep Adam happy who just happened to be made in the image of God. Yet another allegory about the roles women are expected to adhere to according to these archaic writings.

  18. Being raised in a house where we did not go to church and was not taught any part of the bible ... most of the bible readings are new to me. After reading the beginning of the "Bible" in Genesis .. the author... male.. began with saying woman was created to serve man and was the one who fucked up in the garden and now must have pain when giving birth.. ... After said that and reading "The virgin's one bare breast: Nudity, Gender, and Religious... from the second part.. II.. " Because the male sex excels the female sex, Christ assumed a man's nature. So that people should not think little of the female sex, it was fitting that he should take flesh from a woman. Hence Augustine says, "Despise not yourselves, men, the son of God became a man" despise not yourselves, women, the son of god was born of a woman."

    I feel that man back in the day believe woman was second.. that they were the head honcho.... because the book... the bible said women were created to entertain the man... that man was first and women were second.. the bible teaches this.. I just wonder how women feel about this that are dedicated to the church... im sure they feel fine about and accept it because that's what their religion reads... I just can't find in myself to accept that man excels woman. I think that we both have our places in life and we both have qualities that the other doesn't. Equality is nice.

  19. I went to a Christian high school, and I always noticed how often it was insinuated that women were below men, particularily in Bible classes where teachers would describe in detail the roles of women and men in marriage, with women making sure to let the man make decisions. The writing of Genesis mentions phrases such as, "the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman," as well as "this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken." This seemed to create a sense of women only being created as a side piece meant for men. Also the concept of God's self-image from humankind seems to hint through the Bible as more of "him" as having a physical being that is a man, which I never quite understood how an infinite being that doesn't need to reproduce even have a gender. On the topic of the binary, I have to say, when I was taught the individual roles of men and women in Bible class, it did simplify things, which human beings tend to do with everything. Labeling things makes things simpler, but it also denies logic as well as creates limitations on both genders.