Some may say that the world of academia is boring; those people probably aren’t studying crossdressing saints of the Middle Ages. The Young Alumni Lecture held Wednesday, Nov. 16 in the Science Complex Physics building featured Courtney Rydel, a former student of the College. Rydel is now studying to get her Ph.D in medieval literature, with a dissertation titled “Legendary Effects: Women Saints of the Legenda Aurea in England 1260-1563.” She reflected on her experiences in graduate school, giving advice to future graduate students and explaining her current research.
Rydel graduated from the College in 2006 with a B.A. in English. She is currently working towards her Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania.
Rydel’s work explained the role of gender created in early English literature, using saints to demonstrate this phenomenon. These literary works revolved around female saints who posed as men, concealing their gender for different reasons, some more distinct than others. According to Rydel, this representation of gender surprised her, simply because it was such an early time period.
The idea of concealing one’s gender is not uncommon among great literary works, however. “People were always interested in this theme. It’s nothing new. It’s a trend that links up to being extraordinary,” Rydel said.
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