English Literature and History of Art
Pride as Women: The Gendered Representation of the Sin of Pride in Medieval Art and Literature
While much has been written on the personification of the deadly sins in both art and literature, few studies have explored the gendering of sins, especially pride. This paper will investigate the gendering of the sins during the Middle Ages (from the 5th to the 15th century), focusing on the representation of pride in medieval literature and art. It will discuss the depictions of the sin of pride in three medieval literary texts: the twelfth-century French treatise De arte honeste amandi (The Art of Courtly Love), a thirteenth-century Middle English prose Ancrene Wisse (Rule for Anchoresses), and a fourteenth-century medieval poem Piers Plowman. Meanwhile, visual analysis of medieval artworks will provide further social context and insight in order to consider patriarchal domination and societal stereotyping of women at that time.
As Helen Cooper (1991) argued, gender became increasingly relevant to allegorical personification in the Middle Ages. Building on previous scholarly contributions, this study explores both positive and negative aspects of female-gendered personifications of pride in literary texts and visual images of the period. It highlights and explains the distinctive ways in which certain medieval writers and artists drew on and revealed contemporary assumptions about women’s moral characteristics in their personifications of the sin of pride as feminine.