Queen Mathilda of Saxony and the Founding of Quedlinburg

Women, Memory, and Power

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Author:
Helene Scheck

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This essay examines the memorial practices at the tenth-century Saxon community of canonesses at St. Servatius, Quedlinburg, to consider what is gained—and what lost—in the remembrance of key figures of the Ottonian dynasty. A memorial foundation established by Queen Mathilda of Saxony in honor of her husband, King Henry I, this community provides a particularly effective way to explore the relationship between memory, gender, and power in Ottonian culture, since the architecture, ritual practices, institutional rules, daily and intellectual life of the inmates, and literary works possibly produced by them function together as a complex memorializing machine. Reading this community's contributions to the constitution of dynastic memory through Michel Foucault's notion of power, the essay considers the effects of memorializing practices on women in Saxony at the time, who, I argue, never come to be fully present and therefore leave their successors, women writers to come, a legacy of loss.

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