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Women beware midwives

Tom Shippey, 10 May 1990

The Medieval Woman 
by Edith Ennan, translated by Edmund Jephcott.
Blackwell, 327 pp., £32.50, November 1989, 9780631161660
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Not of woman born: Representations of Caesarean Birth in Medieval and Renaissance Culture 
by Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski.
Cornell, 204 pp., $27.95, March 1990, 0 8014 2292 2
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Childhood in the Middle Ages 
by Shulamith Shahar.
Routledge, 342 pp., £35, May 1990, 0 415 02624 5
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Lovesickness in the Middle Ages: The Viaticum and its Commentaries 
by Mary Wack.
Pennsylvania, 354 pp., $39.95, February 1990, 9780812281422
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Barbarolexis: Medieval Writing and Sexuality 
by Alexandre Leupin, translated by Kate Cooper.
Harvard, 261 pp., £27.95, July 1990, 0 674 06170 5
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... Powerful books have been written, and will continue to be written, on feminism and Medieval studies, but Edith Ennen’s The Medieval Woman is not among them. It is full of information, especially on matters towards the end of her period of study, and much of the information cannot help being amusing or thought-provoking, on an anecdotal level: how uniquely contemptuous it was to make the prostitutes of Cologne give sixpence a week each to the town executioner, the man responsible for flogging or hanging them if they defaulted! How strange it is that the famous ius primae noctis, great horror of the Middle Ages to such as Mark Twain, should have been recorded only among the aggressively democratic Swiss cantons round Zürich (perhaps proving that nobody ever meant it seriously ...

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