Visions of a utopian Middle Ages

Finished reading: Matrix by Lauren Groff 📚

I found this an intriguing, highly fictional reconstruction of the life of a medieval convent. The version of Marie de France presented here - visionary, heretical, fiercely compassionate - is certainly doing far more than just filling in the gaps in the historical record. The author makes her a really intriguing, though surely anachronistic, character. And in Lauren Groff’s Marie, there’s more than an echo of another medieval mystic, Hildegard of Bingen.

Although I fully approve of lesbian feminist seperatist utopias (which obviously hardly need my approval), I feel Groff has missed an opportunity here to present a politically pursuasive vision. In particular, why did Marie need to build a huge protective labyrinth around her convent, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the world? The medieval Beguine movement of female lay communities, was highly influential and highly urban. It’s an example of real-life utopianism that wasn’t disconnected from the rest of society at all.

Reading this novel has encouraged me to seek out the background historical research, The Care of Nuns, by Katie Bugrys.

Writing Slowly @writingslowly