Sarah Barnett Humanities and Social Science
Discerning Anonymity: Characterizing Female Voice in Middle English Literature
There is no doubt that finding a professed author in our surviving Middle English texts is both incredibly valuable and extremely difficult. An author, no matter his or her intentions, often cannot help but bring a rich array of individual complexities into their work. However, when an overwhelming majority of the surviving Middle English poetry we have today is expressly author-less, authorial intention becomes an aspect we can only speculate on without any real confidence. Without a name, the basis for determining many aspects of authorial voice has tended to fall rather problematically on a poems content, and just how far we can extrapolate poetic content as indicative of individual character and authorial presence remains an unanswered question. My research seeks to come to stronger conclusions about such issues, largely focusing on how we can and should determine the poetic female voice, especially in cases of anonymous works where no female presence is obvious. By analyzing both works known to be authored by women and those that are anonymous but have often been attributed women authorship by modern scholars, I hope to more comprehensively identify what tools are available for determining such unspoken aspects of authorial voice, and just how far we can utilize them to access what is explicitly absent.