«A Weak Vessel»: Perception of the medieval misogyny in the Northern Humanism

Stefaniia Kovbasiuk


Introduction. For a long time the nature of the Northern Humanism has been a subject to heated discourses among scholars. Was it a try of renewal of Antiquity or a return to Christian sources? We will try to clarify its nature while analyzing the gender discourse in the works by three famous northern humanists and will show how their attitude towards misogynistic discourse was conditioned by Antiquity or Medieval tradition.

Purpose. The paper looks at perception of the medieval misogyny in works by the Northern humanists, such as Erasmus of Rotterdam, Heinrich Agrippa and Juan Vives.

Results. According to Erasmus, woman as an individual should getting wise by reading appropriate books, being meanwhile a subject to her husband, who is a head of a family – here his position was closely related to that of St. Paul and the Church Fathers. Agrippa totally rejected the medieval misogynistic heritage insisting on women’s dignity and superiority to men in all spheres. Vives was the most conservative and devoted to medieval discourse one, though he supported a humanistic claim of women’s right of partial education in ethics and religious matters.

Originality. For the first time works by Erasmus, Agrippa and Vives related to the gender discourse were analyzed in context of perception of ancient Greco-Roman and medieval misogynistic ideas.

Conclusions. The Northern Humanists were more attached to the ancient Greek and Roman gender tradition and that of the Church Fathers. They mainly ignored or objected to the late medieval scholastic tradition. This shows a split between Humanism and Medieval ages, which humanists highlighted in analyzed works.


Germany, the Netherlands, the medieval ages, early modern times, misogyny, the Northern Humanism


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