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women, gender studies, pre-modern women, medieval women


This paper examines two visual texts for teaching a course called “Saints, Wives and Witches” at the University of Houston-Victoria: Jennifer A. Rea’s graphic novel Perpetua’s Journey (Oxford, 2018), which illustrates the eponymous North African martyr’s third-century prison diary, and the film Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen (2009), directed by Margarethe von Trotta, who drew on feminist readings of Hildegard of Bingen’s writings for the purposes of dramatization. The course itself followed a chronology that took students from antiquity to the early modern period and was divided into thematic units that highlighted women’s intersecting identities with regards to religion, marital status, and social class. The graphic novel and film helped achieve two goals. The first was to give students broad exposure to ancient, medieval and early modern history, presenting the history of women and gender as one with themes and analytical frameworks that can be applied to different cultural contexts. The second was to allow students to visualize women through artistic media, depicting these women’s own words. The strategy to achieve both goals required laying groundwork early on in the class, having lectures that introduced pre-modern history and key concepts in women’s and gender studies.