Gilote and Johane: Finding a Medieval Woman’s Voice and Teaching Women’s History

Gilote and Johane: 

Finding a Medieval Woman’s Voice and Teaching Women’s History


Annie Brust 

Kenston High School, Chagrin Falls, Ohio

In approaching how women are represented in medieval texts, we are privy mainly to the conversations of women as written by such male authors as Chaucer, the Gawain-poet, and, in the case given here, the creator of Gilote and Johane as preserved by the Harley Scribe. But what if, within the matrix of male authorship, a real woman emerges – an example of a real woman created through literary device despite being transcribed by a male secret. This woman, or these women as in the case of Gilote and Johane, creates a dialogue that presents a question, do women have the right to be real? In this case, Gilote and Johane are two women seemingly imbedded in medieval culture and societal expectations that women were required to be pious and chaste, however their conversation poses a new idea that women can have desires and pursue them if they are willing to listen to each other and a lesson seems to emerge from their conversation—a lesson of independence and sexual freedom. In studying women’s voices in medieval lyrics, debates, and fabliaux, we must consider the validity and scope of gender-assigned authority. For this consideration, we will use the Harley 2253 text Gilote and Johane as our example, a manuscript of an original story believed to be transcribed by a male cleric.[1] In this newly translated Anglo-Norman comic interlude, two women debate how to conduct both their private lives and their public affairs.

In asking high school students to evaluate lessons presented by fictional medieval women, I aim to create a discussion of the sort of women—authentic or constructed—that may emerge from the minds of men or in this case from the transcription of a male scribe.  Too often the history books fail to provide students with an accurate or authentic scope of history, especially in the context of cultural and gender representation, particularly due to the time crunch put on high school curriculum by state mandates and standardized testing. In an attempt to uncover a larger truth about gender construction, I have created this unit as a way to expand students’ knowledge of women in the Middle Ages, using the content of an authentic edition of a medieval manuscript, Harley 2253.  The Harley manuscript offers a rare peek into the past through an intimate conversation; ergo debate, between Gilote and Johane.[2] Teaching these works enlarge students’ understanding of women’s history, and Gilote and Johane, in particular, is an eye-opening text for introducing students to the literature, geography, and gender-bias of the Middle Ages.


Teaching Environment

This unit is targeted toward a college preparatory Senior English British Literature course at Kenston High School, in Chagrin Falls, Geauga County, Ohio. Kenston High School is a suburban campus comprised of over 1,100 students, grades 9–12. Students come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, but the majority of students—85%—are Caucasian, and nearly 88% of all students who graduate go on to attend a four-year college or university.

In formulating a scope for this lesson, I target a teaching environment consisting primarily of seniors, ages 17-19, who actively seek to continue their academic careers in a university program. By means of thorough research and exploration, I look to expand students’ knowledge of the Middle Ages and medieval literature, and to add enrichment to the incomplete survey of literature as proscribed by often antiquated and inadequate discussion in state mandated textbooks and curriculum—in this case, most importantly, the range of texts found in the TEAMS Complete Harley 2253 Manuscript, Volumes 1–3. In addition to Gilote and Johane (art. 37), I use several other texts from MS Harley 2253 as reference-points to assist me in teaching the importance of hearing medieval women’s voices as written by men, including (but not limited to): The Song on Women (art. 76), A Beauty White as Whale’s Bone (art. 36), ABC of Women (art. 8), The Life of Saint Marina (art. 32), The Clerk and the Girl (art. 64), Advice to Women (art. 44), and The Lover’s Complaint (art. 30).

In assessing the needs of my students, especially concerning those pursuing a college career, I learned early on that most lack a clear understanding of the literary canon and ancient texts. I find that many students have not been exposed to older literature and are resistant to such texts because of their inability to access the language or find relevance to their daily lives. As a high school teacher and college professor of twenty-one years, I find that students excel when they are challenged by new material and change their mindset about archaic literature when they have a willing and enthusiastic guide to help them navigate complex text and ideas. All too often, through no fault of their own, they are privy only to an archaic and unilateral view of the past through outdated textbooks featuring only “old dead white dudes.” Therefore, in order to rectify this shortcoming, I reevaluated my curriculum and saw a need for developing students’ foundations in a broader range of canonical texts, including (but not limited to) the medieval period. As a class, we engage in thorough dissections of texts through cultural and feminist lenses, as a means by which to entice students to further question the motives found within and dictating the text of their literature and history.

This unit is designed to be a four-week survey-and-research supplement to a larger medieval unit.[3] It consists of sixteen 85-minute classes. The course is designed to encourage students to discuss and implement necessary background information and several foundational texts, as well as to complete all the activities set forth in this lesson sampling. The unit can remain a supplement to a larger unit, or may be adapted for a larger discussion or elective unit.


Content Integration and Purpose

When students are asked to reflect on a medieval text, they are often surprised to learn that women did not always fit the roles of housewife and mother that students commonly associate with societal conventions of the past. They are intrigued to learn that women had varying roles and, in fact, had a voice beyond that of the domestic—or internal—sphere. In order to defend and illustrate these varying roles, we must rely on works such as Gilote and Johane to set the scene and illustrate a unique woman—not often found in mainstream literature— a woman who educates her audience about the realities of her time and environment. In evaluating Gilote and Johane, we must consider what is significant—and even defiant—about their voices detailing their epic journey across Europe. How does their message change our perception of women in the Middle Ages?

Therefore, in order to create an environment conducive to creativity and interest, I challenge my students to transport themselves through imagination into a medieval forest. For the purpose of this lesson, I create an imaginative scenario by asking them to role play by getting themselves into character and prefacing the reading with context: Imagine you are a young knight, strolling through the woods when you happen upon a private conversation between two women. Intrigued, you advance more closely to eavesdrop on their private exchange, only to hear a scandalous argument about devious sexual exploits concerning their conquest and manipulation of men. The female tête-à-tête between Gilote and Johane is an open and candid debate concerning the wiles of women and their perceptions of men. As the poem begins, it highlights this scenario, “In secret the knight stopped to listen:/The young ladies weren’t at all aware of him…They were called Gilote and Johane,/And they were talking about their lives” (37.5-8.157).[4] While this is entire scenario—the conversation between Gilote and Johane, the eavesdropping knight, and the class as active participants in the story as it unfolds—is a literary construct, the text represents the larger world of women trying to find their voice in their own time. Initially, the sentiments and feelings that Gilote and Johane share, seem to confirm the stereotype that women are immoral creatures, prone to cheating and chicanery, and that their every thought and conversation is plagued by a need to satiate their sexual appetites: “I was a virgin, but now I’m not at all, /Nor will I ever be, so may I lose my life. /As for your saying that I’m in sin, /Certainly it’s true, as I’m born. /Since I was first begotten, I couldn’t keep from sin” (37.27-32.157).[5] We, the readers, are to assume that women incessantly fantasize about the exploits of personal affairs and are obsessed with men, particularly since the author and primary audience is male.

Yet, in the case of Gilote and Johane, we have two women who challenge men’s stereotypes of women as objects by creating a new conversation about the roles of women in medieval society, from their own account, not just that as created by society or men. While operating under the guise of French fabliaux, these women pose a debate that promotes the validity of women’s advice and their personal ideas about men. The fabliaux merely serves as the device that allows these women to be candid with their feelings and impart a greater lesson about the power of women, particularly when they are able to join forces with other women. Yet these events are relayed to the audience through the eyes (words, really) of a man, in the form of a scribe, a performer, or even a priest, whereas the narrative suggests that a woman, who is rather like the devil, is bent on relating only bawdy tales of how she manipulates men—a lesson by which men may be warned of feminine vices. But is this the actual lesson of the debate or are Gilote and Johane trying to convey to the audience through their conversation that women had power over men and their own decisions concerning men?

In questioning female authenticity and morality as posed by the text of Gilote and Johane, there are key concepts to consider. When addressing the nature of the female voice as recorded by men, a question arises as to how that voice resonates. Here students encounter two women who relate their thoughts and prejudices regarding behaviors between men and women. That is, they discuss what is deemed appropriate by society at large, and how women, in particular, might view these mores. Therefore we must ask, where the authorial voice ends and a woman’s voice begins. Additionally, whenever we deal with women written by men for an audience constituted primarily of men, we must consider the “authenticity” of a female voice represented in fiction. So in applying a feminist lens to a story that has been recorded by a male scribe, is the lesson that is to be gleaned from their conversation authentic or does it merely serve as a means to reiterate the stereotype of sinful women and serve as a warning to other men? In such a context, would a woman’s opinion matter, and is it even possible that an authentic female voice might emerge through the ventriloquism imposed on the characters? Conversation between the two women emerges in Gilote and Johane—incomplete, perhaps, or, better yet, limited—but it is there nonetheless and I believe supersedes male influence and interference. Their conversation serves as a means of debate between what is expected of women by society, ie piety and compliance, as opposed to the real wants and needs of a woman: independence, happiness, and self-assertion, “I won’t have it Johane. It would be outrageous/To live in suffering and in harm./Whoever marries badly doesn’t act prudently./I would be trapped in my house,/Oppressed and beaten for little cause,/[I’d have] to have way too many children,/And I’d never be separated from such a rouge” (37.54-60.159).[6] How do we determine the significance of this conversation, and how do these women’s ideas speak to the ideas of feminism in a medieval world? In assessing a feminist voice in a medieval text and applying these ideas to a high school classroom, consider asking the following questions to generate further inquiry and comprehension: How do we determine a feminist viewpoint a time when feminism, as we define it today, did not yet exist? What might this vantage point encompass or look like? Can men convey a feminist voice when creating a female character, and vice versa? In applying literature through the ages, in your opinion, who creates a better and more convincing depiction of gender roles—can only women truly write women, and only men truly write men? Would a medieval audience be receptive to powerful female roles, would they consider their characters to be based upon real life or merely fictitious?

Consequently, in teaching students about literature, and in particular about medieval text, I aim to engage students to question the narrator and to share what they consider to be authentic, whether that be in terms of the medieval construct or even their own time. In an attempt to answer these questions, and to “authenticate” the female voice that seems to resonate in Gilote and Johane, it is crucial to apply feminist theory to gain insight from the women who emerge. All too often, however, feminist theory is absent from the high school curriculum and the classroom. In incorporating this text in instruction I propose using feminist theory in approaching medieval texts in order to challenge high school students to discover the inequities and misogyny of the past. Feminism was aptly born to challenge the patriarchal model that dominates literature and society. Feminist theory “seeks to rectify sexist discrimination and inequalities”; the“feminist aesthetic . . . argue[s] that women have a literature of their own, possessing its own images, themes, characters, forms, styles, and canons” (Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 24).[7] These inequalities may take many forms, from detrimental stereotypes of women—such as the temptress, the hag, and so on—to feminine creativity being nullified as a valid mainstream art form. Feminist theory seeks to point out the textual inequities about women, written by men, such as the wanton woman, or that women are only obsessed with sex and evil and therefore should be contained to domestic duties and prayer usually by men, and aims to uncover the real life experiences, albeit in this case through literature, in their time (whichever time that may be). Commonly, however, such experiences are related to, or exist in only in association with, men. Nonetheless, feminist criticism seeks to locate a woman’s perspective unique from that of man’s.

Here we have the key scenario and most critical challenge in how a teacher and a student approach and evaluate Gilote and Johane, whether it be for the high school classroom or beyond. In this text, it is the eavesdropping knight who sees the women as gossiping harlots and provides the initial perspective—through a male lens—on the lives of Gilote and Johane: he is eavesdropping, and his actions suggest he is privy to a dirty secret that these women share with one another. The knight’s role is to present the physical form of misogyny, as he intrudes upon their private conversation. His presence suggests that their opinions about male and female relationships must be hidden and therefore cannot be related to the audience without his involvement. However, if we choose to see him as a misogynist, then we the reader and student can surmise that his opinion is biased and therefore ignore his involvement in the story, and focus on the words of Gilote and Johane rather than him; hence his misogyny makes him insignificant. Once we accept his function as misogynist, we can open the door for discussion whereby we can access women who discuss women’s gender and sexual independence without fear of societal retribution. These important ideas form the root of the debate between Gilote and Johane. Gilote warns the audience and women to educate themselves, “Turn the Bible up and down,/You won’t find a friar who will tell you more./Educate yourself, girl! Educate yourself, fool!/You’re not very prudent./Come to school!/Do as I do, May God prosper you!/Help the world foster the belief” (35.145-148.163).[8] Here we see a bleeding through of what could be a real engagement directed toward a female audience: education. Gilote wants not only for men to be entertained by the apparent brash of her sexual appetite but she also addresses the women to be aware that there are options for them. Marriage is not the only way and that women can too have enjoyment from a relationship on their own terms if they learn to use societal’s already preconceived bias to their advantage, “Gilote has an answer for everything and succeeds in convincing the woman to get the satisfaction she cannot find with her husband outside the bonds of marriage. This verdict meets with general approval…” (Reichl 230-231).[9] So much so that it becomes a conversation reiterated within this text.

The conversation is one of practical concerns and a tangible way to address the misnomers of societal convention: God wants humans to procreate, you should not provide false temptation, love is natural, etc. Educate yourself on the truth or in this case women will educate you on the improbability of your bias about relationships. For Gilote tells us – you, me, and the audience – her desires to educate all, “Educate yourself, girl! Educate yourself, fool!” (ibid). Here we see a direct address to not one but two distinct members of the intended audience, a girl and a fool. She may be suggesting they are one in the same if they continue to rely on antiquated notions to dictate how they see marital or even filial relations. Possibly, there is a different conversation occurring, one where the woman actually emerges despite the male voice. She – Gilote – and even Johane are creating an aside, advising, ‘hey you, medieval woman educate yourself and hey you – man, you fool, educate yourself so you can know that we have much more in our nature than what your misogynistic scope allows.’ The woman has a separate voice, she speaks directly through the poem and out of the page and into the pub to all those listening. She not only warns Johane and others about the dangers of giving up yourself to adhere to society, she also warns against the dangers of losing yourself to a bad marriage, “It would be outrageous to live in suffering and in harm./Whoever marries badly doesn’t act prudently./I would be trapped in my house,/Oppressed and beaten for little cause,/[I’d have] to have way too many children,/And I’d never be separated from such a rogue./I’ve never known a woman who took a husband, who sooner or later didn’t regret it” (37. 54-62. 159).[10] She goes on to explain that she remains her own person and by not marrying she can leave her lover whenever she wants, especially if he behaves badly or forsakes his duties and doesn’t need the permission “from a priest or anyone else,” she may choose another lover at leisure and live out her day in utter happiness (37. 66. 159).[11] We have to acknowledge that there is a real conversation happening here that bodes highly for women and their own choices, despite the man’s pen, the voice is inherently feminine, casting out the convention of marriage or priests and championing a woman to be her own knight and quest for a better future on her own terms which she in turn wants to impart to others.

From one lesson to the next, these young women have much to say about their lives and desires despite being penned by a man. It is in the words and parallel debate on what is provided by society as commonplace and rejected by Gilote as unsatisfactory where we see a real authorial voice in attempts to acknowledge the woman as an equal partner in this thing called life, albeit in the middle ages. However antiquated the text, the lesson rings true: a woman knows best and will strive to share her knowledge even in the woods, even in secret to be overheard by and unsuspecting scribe that will reproduce it in a format for all.

By means of this unit on Gilote and Johane and medieval women’s history, I hope to lead students toward discovering their own informed interpretations and opinions on Gilote and Johane and from this example question other texts insofar as the motivation behind the meaning. As students explore the ideas that an underground conversation exists within a traditional text and can be unearthed by their own analyses, students become aware that they are a crucial part of their own learning.

            Not only does this lesson tie into students’ own sense of personal agency in learning, but it is also relevant to the current social climate. Given today’s environment, immersed in gender exploration, students are intrigued by topics that explore the nature of gender equality. The conversation about gender has practical utility for students’ lives, and it becomes a tangible means to address commonplace misnomers of societal convention—as presented by Gilote and Johane but still resonant today—such as the ideas of religion and social imposed societal norms that students hear and question: God wants humans to procreate, avoid temptation, love is natural but only between a man and women, and so on. Furthermore, the lesson for readers from Gilote and Johane to educate yourself on the truth, or, in this case, women themselves will educate you on the improbability of your biases about relationships, is all the more prevalent and resonants keenly with today’s youth.  Consequently, Gilote and Johane has the capacity to speak loudly to students. In reading this text, they learn not only about gender bias but also about how society’s strife for equality is ever-evolving. Indeed, Gilote tells all of us—you, me, the medieval audience—about her desire to educate everyone: “Educate yourself, girl! Educate yourself, fool!” (1.147)[12] We must acknowledge that what happens here is a genuine and inherently feminine conversation, one that bodes well for women, as it casts out the convention of marriage and champions a woman’s right to quest (like an errant knight) for a better future on her own terms—a right that she wants, in turn, to impart to others.

In Gilote and Johane, two young women have much to say about their lives and desires. Words set in lively debate challenge society’s strict and pious rules imposed on women during the Middle Ages. Gilote rejects these rules as unsatisfactory, and what emerges is a human voice that acknowledges woman as an equal, in this thing called Life (albeit medieval life). Therefore, by applying feminist theory and having students challenge traditional misnomers about women and their roles in medieval society, readers can enrich their own knowledge of the past, the present, and the future. Therefore, to steal the words from Gilote, education is the key. In the case of Gilote and Johane I like to think that woman knows best concerning her own mind, her wants and her needs, as well as her abilities to share that knowledge with others so future generations can benefit from the experiences of those who struggled before them. What Gilote and Johane teaches us is that despite the constraints put on women by religion, masculinity and even at times education, if women are willing to speak out, even if it is through verse, they will be heard. We all can learn from these women and their ability to face the odds of condemnation by admitting to their exploits and needs, as well as their commitment to share it with the world is powerful and inspirational. No matter the difficulty or challenge, this woman, the one we find in Gilote and Johane, will emerge and persevere. Her voice rings loud and true and becomes an inspiration, which is why this text is so imperative, in my opinion, to be worthy of study for future generations, an especially for the high school student.


Resources for Gilote and Johane: Teaching Activities and Content Materials

In approaching the text of Gilote and Johane, students will need to learn the fundamentals of the text and its social contexts as well as key ideas of feminist theory. The following provides resources, activities, and an annotated bibliography to help students accomplish the greater goal of the culminating project.

  1. Gilote and Johane – amended poem (PDF).

Copy of the original poem adapted for use in the high school classroom due to the nature of some risqué content and language.

  1. Gilote and Johane in the Harley 2253 Manuscript (facsimile copy)

  1. Close Reading Activity (PDF)

This close reading activity utilizes the adapted text of the poem Gilote and Johane, in order to hone in on its key language, focusing primarily on the intents expressed by female voices.

  1. Feminist Archetype handout (PDF)

This handout on female archetypes can be supplemented by the following resources for students’ research and culminating project:

(a) Savitt, Jill. Female Stereotypes in Literature (With a Focus on Latin American Writers). Yale—New Haven Teacher’s Institute. 2016. PDF. 26 Apr. 2017.


(c) “Female Archetypes.” School of Modern Psychology. 2016. PDF. 17 Apr. 2017.

  1. Bennett, Paula Bernat. “A Muse of Their Own: The Satirical Poetry of Nineteenth-Century Feminists.”Studies in American Humor 3 (Nov. 2004): 63-72.


Bennett explores the concept of humor in nineteenth-century American poetry by women, much of which are in fact parodies established American poetry created by men. The discussion focuses on the absurdities of men and their offense at being “uncovered,” paralleling Gilote and Johane’s journey across Europe to expose the untruths about women and marriage.

  1. Cixous, Hèléne. The Laugh of Medusa. In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Second Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2010. Pp. 1938–59.

Cixous discusses how the creation of the “lady-monster” can in no way represent real women because men write only what they know, not about real women free from insult and degradation. Her argument aligns with the imagery at the beginning of Gilote and Johane in which a knight making assumptions about women’s impropriety.

  1. Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. “Transnational Feminist Crossings: On Neoliberalism and Radical Critique (English).” Signs 38 (2013): 967–91.

Mohanty discusses the problem with textual meanings that are lost in translation when writing about women falls outside of the academic norm—as in women who are transgender, homosexual or gender-fluid, which then translates to their writing. She argues that there is a distinct danger in applying a traditional feminist critique to western nations that are riddled with unique constraints on power and on women’s position within that power. By challenging the norm, women create, in effect, “private acts of rebellion” (968), much as Gilote and Johane do.

  1. Navarre, Marguerite de. The Heptameron, Story 8. In The Norton Anthology of Western Literature, Volume 1. Ninth Edition. Ed. Martin Puchner, et al. Norton, 2014. Pp. 2248-52.

The Heptameron is a collection of stories that challenge the attitudes of men toward women, and vice versa, by way of storytelling. Each story depicts a scenario that confronts preconceived notions of relationships. Navarre is quick to point out the difference between men and women and their views on relationships, particularly in how men focus on lustful encounters.

  1. Pizan, Christine de. “Christine’s Reaction to Jean Montreuil’s Treatise on Romance de la Rose and City of Ladies.” In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Second Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2010. Pp. 200–216.

Between the years 1402 and 1405 Christine de Pizan eviscerated Jean de Meun’s adaptation of the Roman de la Rose,(originally begun by Guillame de Lorris) for its scandalous depiction of Reason. Pizan chastises those who esteemed that work as scholarly, contending that men, when writing about women, are especially misguided when referring to personal matters in such a vulgar and phallocentric way. This is an important piece illustrating female authorship and a women challenging a man’s depiction of female vice, which is applicable to Gilote and Johane.  how female authorship did exist in the Middle Ages.

  1. Verini, Alexandra. “Medieval Models of Female Friendship in Christine De Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies and Margery Kempe’s The Book of Margery Kempe.” Feminist Studies 42 (2016): 365-91.

Verini challenges Derrida’s phallocentric construct of friendship, claiming that there is a unique and specific relationship/friendship between women, as presented by Pizan and Kempe. Pizan’s narrative further suggests the presence of female fellowship and a network of friendship among women. The idea can be seen as well in Kempe’s holy female exemplars.

  1. Weber, Brenda R. “Teaching Popular Culture through Gender Studies: Feminist Pedagogy in a Postfeminist and Neoliberal Academy?” Feminist Teacher 20.2 (2010): 124–38.

Weber discusses how “postfeminism and neoliberalism contest the legitimacy of traditional feminist dogma” (124). She defines each concept and makes a valid case for why we should study feminist doctrine in association with ancient and traditional texts.


Helpful Links and Additional Resources for Supplementary Research

  1. Feminism

(a) The CBC digital archive ( provides great resources for foundational feminist/new feminist theory as well as supplemental articles for student research and foundational content.

(b) de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. New York: Vintage, 1974.

(c) Luft, Rachel E. “Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism.” Contemporary Sociology 34.4 (2005): 366–67.

(d) Stephens, Anne, Chris Jacobson, and Christine King. “Describing a Feminist-Systems Theory.” Systems Research and Behavioral Science 27.5 (2010): 553–66.

(e) Wollstonecraft, Mary. From A Vindication on Women’s Rights. In: The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2010, 493–504.

(f) Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. In: The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd edn. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2010. Pp. 892–905.

(g) Zimmerman, Bonnie. What Has Never Been: An Overview of Lesbian Feminist Literary Criticism. In: The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd edn. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2010, 2328–50.

  1. Gilote and Johane

(a) The Complete Harley Manuscript 2253, Volume 2. Ed. and trans.Susanna Fein, with David Raybin and Jan Ziolkowski. Medieval Institute Publications, 2014. Art. 37. Pp. 157–73. This resource provides the original poem in French with a modern English translation, as well as supplemental readings.

(b) Reichl, Karl. “Debate Verse.” In: Studies in the Harley Manuscript: The Scribes, Contents, and Social Contexts of British Library MS Harley 2253. Ed. Susanna Fein. Medieval Institute Publications, 2000. Pp. 219–39. Reichl assesses the content of MS Harley 2253 that pertain to debates, including Gilote and Johane and other poems.

(c) Additional Reading Lists for Gilote and John (PDF). Many other medieval texts, especially The Owl and the Nightingale, share similarities in having a debate form. For Owl, see

  1. The Electronic Beowulf This site allows students to explore a comparative medieval text and view the manuscript online.

  1. Ellesmere Text of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales This resource provides illuminated texts of Chaucer’s works in a major manuscript, including visual depictions of medieval women.
  2. Maps This resource offers maps of medieval landscapes, territories, and countries, giving students a visual idea of regions they are studying.

  1. British Museum This resource provides supplemental texts and articles pertaining to medieval history and relics.

  1. Middle English Dictionary This dictionary supplies a good linguistic resource for close reading activities by providing students with a means to research words and their etymologies.

  1. Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism

Second Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. Norton, 2010, pp. 24–25. This anthology provides a complete, approachable means to defining theory and applying feminist critique.


Culminating Activity

  1. Culminating Project – Mythbusters (PDF)

After careful exploration of the text along with feminist theory, students will create an essay or project that debunks some of the myths of medieval women and their roles in literature and society.

  1. “Narrative Rubrics.” 2017. PDF. 15 Aug. 2016. This site supplies rubrics that are aligned to Common Core standards and adaptable to grade level and context. They are reproducible, customizable, and thus a great resource for writing rubrics.


Rationale for Culminating Project

The challenge of discovering women’s voices in Gilote and Johane mirrors similar trends in theoretical and feminist literature regarding medieval women’s history. Early scholarship largely concentrated on women’s roles and culture in association with men—husbands, priests, kings—whereas more recent scholarship looks at women in their relationships to other women. Teaching Gilote and Johane supports the pedagogical goal of bringing to students a more comprehensive representation of medieval women. Therefore, students will test their knowledge of history, of feminist critiques, and historical biases, challenging students’ ability to research, and analyze complex text. These combined efforts will further enhance students’ understanding of Western and contemporary culture and literature.

[1] The Complete Harley Manuscript 2253, Volume 2. Ed. And trans. Susanna Fein, with David Raybin and Jan Ziolkowski. Medieval Institute Publications. 2014. Art. 37, 157-73.

[2] Gilote and Johane. The Complete Harley Manuscript 2253, Volume 2. Ed. And trans. Susanna Fein, with David Raybin and Jan Ziolkowski. Medieval Institute Publications. 2014. Art. 37, 157-73.

[3] Please see additional samples and activities that will assist in learning about the materials and applying them to the classroom.

[4] See note 2

[5] See note 2

[6] See note 2

[7] The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. W.W. Norton & Co., 2010. 24.

[8] See note 2

[9] Reichl, Karl. “Debate Verse.” Studies in the Harley Manuscript: The Scribes, Contents, and Social Contexts of British Library MS Harley 2253. Ed. Susanna Fein. Medieval Institute Publications, 2000. 219-239.

[10] See note 2

[11] See note 2

[12] See note 2