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individual agency, medieval society, posthuman configurations


This paper examines how individual agency in medieval society might be expanded through posthuman configurations; in so doing, it pushes the boundaries of traditional practices in medieval research to include more contemporary ideas. Although as scholars, we must avoid anachronistic readings of these texts, ignoring modern thinkers like N. Katherine Hayles (How We Became Posthuman) and Donna Haraway (“A Cyborg Manifesto”) too easily disregards their valuable – and timeless – insights. While the term “posthuman” can evoke images of cyborgs or superhuman mutants using wormholes to traverse space and time, this pop culture perspective often overlooks less technoscientific examples of the posthuman. Many people who were marginalized by medieval society simply accepted their roles as “predetermined,” rather than resisting social injustices However, if we read medieval texts by Marie de France, Julian of Norwich, and Margery Kempe as expressions of resistance, their posthuman figures (as hybrids and cyborgs) can subvert the deeply embedded misogyny of social, religious, and gender roles. These authors did not break societal rules: they wrote around them. When “getting medieval” using brute strength was not an option, going posthuman put these authors light years ahead of their patriarchal confines. By deploying posthuman characters, and becoming posthumans themselves, they created new spaces to embrace roles of power. By imagining characters whose roles surpassed those of mere women, they became even more than just “human.”