Ambiguous Locks

An Iconology of Hair in Medieval Art and Literature


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About the Book

It has long been said that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. Indeed, throughout history, hair has remained an important cultural symbol of femininity. In medieval art, iconic images of long, flowing locks can express sexuality, and the cutting of a woman’s hair often signals her feminine misbehavior. Artists of all kinds in the Middle Ages used women’s long hair to manipulate their audience’s estimation of their female figures. This interdisciplinary work explores the significance of women’s hair in literature and art from the medieval period through 1525, putting into historical context the ways in which hair participates in construction of the female identity.

About the Author(s)

Roberta Milliken is a professor of English at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, where she teaches medieval and renaissance literature as well as women’s studies classes.

Bibliographic Details

Roberta Milliken
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 300
Bibliographic Info: 40 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4870-8
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8792-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix

Introduction      1

Part One: Contexts      9

1. Women      13

2. Hair      36

3. Conduct      54

Part Two: “Bad” Women      89

4. Eve      91

5. Lust, Prostitutes, and Venus      108

6. Sirens and Mermaids      123

7. Witches      134

8. Punishments for “Bad” Women      148

Part Three: “Good” Women      160

9. The Virgin Mary      163

10. Saint Mary Magdalene, Saint Mary of Egypt, and Saint Agnes      185

11. Other Virgin Martyrs      213

12. Jeanne d’Arc      237

Epilogue      257

Chapter Notes      261

Bibliography      275

Index      285

Book Reviews & Awards

“examines representations of women’s hair in works from the early medieval through the Early modern period and explores the ways in which these depictions communicated ideas about the roles, value and sexuality of women during the period.”—SciTech Book News; “an interesting overview of a rich topic, written in admirably accessible language”—Speculum.