Sunday, June 05, 2011

A Guest Post By Anna: A Literary Canon of Women Writers, Part Three: The Fifth Century to the Seventh Century

(Echidne's note: Part One of the series is here, Part Two here.)

The Middle Ages are generally considered to be the fifth until the fifteenth century, for the record, but of course I couldn't do that all in one post. So here is a beginning.

Aelia Eudocia Augusta (c. 401-460 CE) was the wife of Theodosius II, and a prominent historical figure during the rise of Christianity during the beginning of the Byzantine Empire. She wrote a poem entitled The Martyrdom of St. Cyprian in two books, of which 800 lines survived, and an inscription of a poem on the baths at Hammat Gader.  Her most studied piece of literature is her Homeric cento, which has been analyzed recently by a few modern scholars, such as Mark Usher and Brian Sower. It is the longest Homeric cento and has stories from the book of Genesis and New Testament stories about the life of Jesus added to it, showing the mix of Eudocia's Greek upbringing and her Christian faith. She had to convert in order to marry the Emperor. She impressed Theodosius II with her eloquence as well as her beauty, despite her poverty; she had been left only 100 coins in her father's will, though he gave much more to her brothers. Aelia Eudocia Augusta is a good source for those interested in the literary output of those raised in ancient pagan faith who became Christian. She is an understudied poet and has been neglected due to lack of complete and authoritative text.

Tumāḍir bint ʿAmr ibn al-Ḥarth ibn al-Sharīd al-Sulamīyah(575-645 CE), usually simply referred to as al-Khansā’, is the best known female poet in Arabic literature. In her time, the role of a female poet was to write elegies for the dead and perform them for the tribe in public oral competitions. Al-Khansā’ won respect and fame in these competitions with her elegies for her brothers, Ṣakhr and Muʿāwiyah, who died in battle.The contemporaneous male Arabic poet al-Nabighah al-Dhubyani said of her: "al-Khansā’ is the finest poet of the jinn and the humans."

Layla Bint Abullah Bin Shaddad Bin Ka’b Al Akheeliyya, or simply Layla Al Akheeliyya (c 600s CE) was a famous seventh century Arab poet who was renowned for her poetry, eloquence, and strong personality as well as her beauty. Layla depended highly on her poetry for income, and it provided her with connections to rich and powerful people.

Princess Nukata (c. 630-690 CE) (also known as Princess Nukada) was a Japanese poet and wife of Emperor Temmu.  Thirteen of her poems appear in the Man'yōshū, which is the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry, compiled some time after 759 AD during the Nara period. The Man'yōshū is one of the most revered of Japan's poetic compilations, and is widely available in English.