Failing Femininities: The Femmes of MS Additional 37049



This article offers a gendered analysis of the illuminations that bleed, sin, and pray their way through a fifteenth-century Carthusian miscellany from Northern England. British Library MS Additional 37049 may have been a tool for private affective devotion or it may have moved beyond the borders of the charterhouse to meet the spiritual needs of the pious laity. Each of its users would have encountered an extensive, didactic illustrative program that is so interwoven with the text as to be inseparable. These illuminations have previously received academic attention for their performative potential, significations of morality through medieval dress, and their role in affective devotion. A gendered analysis, however, remains to be done despite recognition of the illuminator’s reliance on performative bodies. 

The comprehensive, symbolic nature of the Carthusian miscellany makes it a rich case study for thinking through late medieval femininities. From submissive monks and beastly whores to penetrative devotional acts and deadly sins bedecked in all the fashionable excesses of fifteenth-century England, this article argues that the illuminations in this manuscript can benefit from a framework that accommodates femininities beyond binary bounds. In turn, it advocates that this manuscript — itself a hybrid creature of poetry, prose, and image — illuminates medieval complexities that invite a rethinking of modern expectations about the past and future of gender.

Keywords: queer, medieval, halberstam, failure, femininity

How to Cite: Woodley, B. (2023) “Failing Femininities: The Femmes of MS Additional 37049”, Object. 24(1). doi: