Abandoned Women

Rewriting the Classics in Dante, Boccaccio, and Chaucer
Suzanne Hagedorn
Sheds light on the complex web of allusions that link medieval authors to their literary predecessors


Medievalists have long been interested in the "abandoned woman," a figure traditionally used to examine the value of male heroism. Moving beyond previous studies, which have focused primarily on Virgil's Dido, Suzanne Hagedorn incorporates an array of primary texts which influenced and inspired medieval writers as they created their own poetic visions.

Focusing on the vernacular works of Dante, Boccaccio, and Chaucer, she argues that revisiting the classical tradition of the abandoned woman enables these medieval authors to reconsider ancient epics and myths from a female perspective and question assumptions about gender roles in medieval literature. Hagedorn's careful examination of these ancient texts illuminates the complex web of allusions that link medieval authors to their literary predecessors.

In essence, the author argues that the process of reading, reimagining, and reinscribing Ovid's Heroides in their own vernacular fictions teaches Dante, Boccaccio, and Chaucer how to write from a revisionist perspective and how to recast and reconsider epic history and mythology from women's viewpoints. Hagedorn further demonstrates that all three authors present remarkably powerful and sympathetic views of women in their works. Abandoned Women will be of interest to medievalists and non-medievalists alike, with an interest in the areas of medieval text reception, poetic tradition, comparative literature, and gender studies.

Suzanne Hagedorn is Associate Professor of English at the College of William and Mary.

Praise / Awards

  • "[A] bold and compelling exercise in close reading and comparative analysis. . . . Clear, thoughtful, and theoretically astute, this will be a valuable addition to collections in medieval English, Italian, and comparative literatures."

  • "Suzanne Hagedorn's book on abandoned women enters a critical conversation that already possesses a strong and determinant shape."
    Modern Philology

  • "Hagedorn's writing is crisp and engaging throughout, her close readings consistently sensitive. This is a book—like those of Hagedorn's acknowledged critical influences, Winthrop Wetherbee and John Fleming—that unabashedly treats literary negotiations as the product of a dialogue of governing intelligences...Those who are skeptical of this critical approach are not likely to be converted by this fine book (nor, I think, is that its intent) but will nonetheless find within its pages a lucid, sometimes dazzling reanimation of medieval writers' literary responses to a classical topos that emerges as a capacious, elastic measure of the problematics of literary influence."
    —Jamie C. Fumo, Speculum

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Copyright © 2004, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 232pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11349-1

Add to Cart
  • $89.95 U.S.



  • Dante, Boccaccio, Chaucer, women's studies, gender studies, medieval, Renaissance, literary studies, literary criticism, poetry, medieval text reception, poetic tradition, comparative literature, comp lit, lit crit, European literature, philology, Italian, Europe, women