Gender violence and care practices in the Middle Ages. Sources, representations and methods of analysis (Geneva)

Violences de genre et pratiques de care au Moyen Âge. Sources, représentations et méthodes d’analyse (Genève)

As part of the CUSO doctoral program in medieval studies, we are pleased to organize, on Monday 24 (afternoon) and Tuesday 25 April 2023, at the University of Geneva, an interdisciplinary colloquium on the representations of gender-based violence and the care practices that respond to it in the Middle Ages.

This symposium is organized according to two perspectives. On the one hand, it will be a question of contributing to remedying the lack of institutionalization of gender studies in university training in the human sciences and particularly in letters. While it is common for a teacher to be confronted with sources that depict sex and gender relations, and the violence that can govern them, the freedom of speech in the era contemporary of #MeToo makes this symposium an additional and unprecedented opportunity to nurture the interdisciplinarity of a rapidly expanding field of research in the human and social sciences, and to participate in the social and intellectual movement which is interested in gender violence, its history and to their recognition, as indicated, for example, by the training recently offered by the HETS in Fribourg, “Detecting gender-based violence: cross-views and institutional responses”. In addition to this first concern, we would also like to work on compensating for the lack of demand from the medieval period in these fields. The politico-social and historical questioning of filmmakers or novelists on sexual and gender-based violence, as well as on their physical and institutional reparation, their compensation or their symbolic support, through medieval times, is a driving force used for a long time, as evidenced by the first volume of the German novel saga by Ingrid Knocke and Elmar Wolrath, The whore (Die Wanderhure), released in 2008 and adapted to the cinema in 2010, or the recent film by Ridley Scott, The Last Duel, on the rape of Marguerite de Carrouges, released in theaters last October. However, medieval studies still lack a certain legitimacy, with regard, for example, to the symposium Rape scenes in European literature, 16th-18th centurieswhich will be organized at the University of Haute-Alsace in October 2023, or even in the one organized on care in literature, last October, by Alexandre Gefen and Andrea Oberhuber.

We expect proposals lasting 30 minutes, mobilizing various disciplines (literature, history, art, philosophy, theology, anthropology). Gender-based violence will be considered as sexual violence (rape, abduction, harassment), but also, and above all, as gender violencethat is, as practice emanating from/affecting a social role based on one or more gender relations, in its various physical manifestations (confinement, deprivation, spatial segregation, exclusion or banishment), verbal (insult, humiliation, slander for various reasons and motives), psychological (manipulation, devaluation, contempt), economic (financial dependence, prohibition of work or assignment to imposed trades) and politics. It will then be a question of studying the care practice sexin the joint perspective of gender & care studies : who exercises it, who benefits from it, how, and according to what gender relations? The specific objective of this event is, ultimately, to observe the dynamics of power, abuse, reaction and compensation that vector violence and its reparation, as well as the impact of sex and gender on these latest. An intersectional approach will be privileged, capable of overcoming the polarization, real, but not necessarily automatic, between male-aggressor and female-victim, or even between female-caregiver and male-treated. While it is true that certain abuses or certain care practices have generally been attributed to a single sex – rape, for example, has long been understood as an act of violent sexual penetration by a man on a woman, while caring for the wounded knight is usually women’s business – the best results emerge from a study able to integrate and discuss sex/gender polarization, paying attention to other axes of inequality: age relations , social class, physical appearance and nature (humans, supernatural beings), ethnicity or religion. It is also a question of questioning the use of certain categories and concepts (for example: rape, victim, culture of rape) contemporary in medieval studies, by calling for the use of a controlled and critical anachronism.

We invite all interested medieval researchers (doctoral students, post-doctoral students, or advanced researchers) to send us, at the addresses of e-mail below, their communication proposal in French or in English, of approximately one page, accompanied by a brief Curriculum Vitae, in PDF format, for the January 31, 2023: and

NB CUSO doctoral students will, as usual, have their transportation and meal expenses covered. Those who would like to attend and/or participate in the event without being attached to a CUSO university are welcome, but should find out about the reimbursement possibilities offered by their affiliated laboratories.

Scientific Committee

Rose Delestre (University of Geneva – Rennes 2 University)
Yasmina Foehr-Janssens (University of Geneva)
Fabienne Pomel (Rennes 2 University)
Benedetta Viscidi (Università degli Studi di Padova – University of Geneva)

Indicative bibliography

Baechle Sarah, with Harris Clarissa M., Rape Culture and Female Resistance in Late Medieval Literature. With an Edition of Middle English and Middle Scots Pastourelles, Penn State University Press, 2022.

Bazan Iñaki, Some remarks on the victims of rape in the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the modern era, in The victims, forgotten by history? (see below).

Bodiou Lydie, with Chauvaud Frédéric, Soria Myriam, Gaussot Ludovic and Grihom Marie-José (dir.), The body in tatters. Sexual and gender-based violence against women, PUR, 2016.

Ducousso-Lacaze Alain, with Grihom Marie-José (dir.), Violence against women’s bodies, in Dialogue n° 208, Erès, 2008/2.

Esposito Anna, with Franceschi Franco & Piccinni Gabriella (ed.), Violence against women. A look at the Middle Ages, translated by Marie-Ange Beaugrand, UGA Éditions, 2022

Foehr-Janssens Yasmina, “Medieval literature and gender studies: successes, obstacles and challenges”, Francofonia 74 (2018), p. 21-37.

Garnot Benoît (dir.), Victims, forgotten by history?, PUR, 2000.

Gefen Alexandre, Fixing the World. French literature facing the 21st century, José Corti, 2017.

Gefen Alexandre, The idea of ​​literature, José Corti, 2021.

Gilligan Carol, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development, Harvard University Press, 1982.

Gonthier Nicole, “Victims of rape before the courts at the end of the Middle Ages according to Dijon and Lyon sources”, in Criminologie, 27/2 (1994), p. 9-32.

Gravdal Kathryn, Ravishing Maidens. Writing Rape in Medieval French Literature and Law, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991.

Harraway Donna, “Situated knowledge: the science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective”, Feminist Studies 14 (1988), p. 575-599.

Hammond Meghan, Kim Sue (eds.), Rethinking Empathy Through Literature, Routledge, 2014.

Ibos Caroline, “Ethics and policies of care. Cartography of a critical category”, in Clio. Women, Gender, History 49 (2019) | Care work, p. 181-219.

Laugier Sandra, “Ethics as politics of the ordinary”, in Multitudes 37-38 (2009), vol. 2, p. 80-88.

Lavergne Cécile, with Perdoncin Anton, Describe violence, in Tracés. Journal of Human Sciences, 19 (2010).

Lett Didier, with Noûs Camille, “Medievalists and the history of women and gender: twelve years of research”, Genre & Histoire 26 (2020).

Merlin-Kajman Hélène, Literature in the time of #MeToo, Ithaca, 2020.

Martha Nussbaum, Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life, Beacon Press, 1995.

Paperman Patricia, Care and feelings, Presses Universitaires de France, 2013.

Parini Lorena, The gender system. Introduction to concepts and theories, Seismo, 2006.

Gulley Alison (ed.), Teaching Rape in the Medieval Literature Classroom: Approaches to Difficult Texts, Arc Humanities Press, 2018.

Tronto Joan, Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care, Routledge, 1993.

Vandeventer Pearman Tory, Women and Disability in Medieval Literature, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Vandeventer Pearman Tory, Disability and Knighthood in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, Routledge, 2019.

Viscidi Benedetta, “Rappresentazioni dello stupro nel Medioevo letterario di Francia: stato dell’arte con qualche proposta”, L’Immagine Riflessa 31/1 (2022), p. 79-118.

Wolfthal Diane, Images of Rape: The “Heroic” Tradition and its Alternatives, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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