Susannah Crowder
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Acting as Catherine
Writing the history of female performers
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Female performers exist in a shadowy and illusory state, fashioned as such by our histories. Medieval chronicles systematically exclude women, inhibiting an understanding of them as actors in Metz and beyond. Yet the performing women of the 1468 Catherine of Siena jeu staged an interplay among personal devotion, political affiliation, and gendered notions of urban sanctity; this multiform and yet cohesive undertaking becomes fully visible through the triangulation of new material and familiar narrative evidence. This chapter first uncovers the distorting effects of written histories upon the Saint Catherine actor and constructions of female performance. It then turns to the archives and material culture to reveal the hidden family identity and social status of the actor: the role transformed its player permanently, positioning her as the living symbol of the saint within Metz. The patron, Catherine Baudoche, also secured a lasting connection to the saint by referencing her personal foundations at the Dominican convent. It aligned her with an elite group of regional women who promoted Catherine of Siena through liturgy, architecture, and manuscript illumination. The Saint Catherine jeu thus situates the actor and patron amid a community of practice that depicted women at the forefront of shared devotions to Saint Catherine within the urban public sphere.

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Performing women

Gender, self, and representation in late medieval Metz


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