Herstory: Exploring the material life of Gundrada de Warenne
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Dempsey, Karen. (2021). Herstory: Exploring the Material Life of Gundrada de Warenne. In Emma O. Bérat / Rebecca Hardie / Irina Dumitrescu (eds.) Relations of Power. Women’s Networks in the Middle Ages, Studien zu Macht und Herrschaft, Vol. 5. Bonn University Press by V&R Unipress, pp. 169-196.
Scholarly work on castles draws on multiple sources from history, archaeology, art and architectural history to literary and religious studies. This places it inaunique position to be able to bring different threads together to tell full stories of women’s lives. But a challenge exists to explore medieval women’s gendered roles and their lived experience without falling prey to the trap of inserting women into traditional narratives of male power. As a first step in response to my own call for fuller archaeological accounts of women’s lived experiences, this article focuses on one elite woman – Gundrada Oosterzele-Scheldewindeke, later de Warenne (d. 1085). It endeavours to capture her world through an examination of the material connections and relationships of her life. While people and places are important in this, the emphasis here is placed on our knowledge of the things that shaped Gundrada’s life and death. These range from castle architecture, her much-discussed Tournai stone tombslab, an assemblage of hairpins and a devotional text, the Crowland Psalter, as well as an archaeological object with possible amuletic properties. Drawing these different strands of evidence together shows how we can foreground women, not by marking them as exceptional but to highlight that they were part of and participative within the networked material world.