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Jane Tolmie Eve in the Looking-Glass: Interpretive labour in the Anglo-Norman Jeu d’Adam
In diesem Beitrag werden Passagen aus Kommentaren zur biblischen Paradieserzählung von Ambrosius und Augustin den Versuchungsszenen Adams wie Evas durch den Teufel in der anglo-normannischen Ordo representacionis Ade, oft Jeu d’Adam genannt, gegenübergestellt. Es wird gezeigt, wie Eva in diesem frühen volkstümlichen Schöpfungsschauspiel als ein Spiegel fungiert, in welchem Adam ein unzulängliches und mangelhaftes Wesen sieht, als ein Spiegel, der den hierarchischen Vorrang Adams bestätigt.
Der Schwerpunkt der Untersuchung des Jeu d’Adam liegt auf den analytischen und kreativen Anstrengungen im Stück, anhand derer Evas unzulängliche Rolle im Schöpfungsdrama aufrechterhalten wird.
Wie diese Untersuchung von Ambrosius und Augustin einerseits und dem Jeu d’Adam andererseits zeigt, wird Eva von verschiedenen, scheinbar unvereinbaren Seiten eine Unzulänglichkeit zugeschrieben. Dass diese unvereinbaren Positionen in Bezug auf Evas Rolle in der Geschlechterbeziehung übereinstimmen können, erhellt eine Art und Weise, wie sich patriarchale Strukturen selbst herstellen und erneuern.
Jane Tolmie - Eve in the Looking-Glass: Interpretive labour in the Anglo-Norman Jeu d’Adam (88,5 KiB)
Introduction: The Looking Glass
Teresa de Lauretis, in Alice Doesn’t: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema, looks at some of the ways in which women in mainstream movies are kept “captive and silent”, and observes of the “dominant cinema” that it
specifies woman in a particular social and natural order, sets her up in certain positions of meaning, fixes her in a certain identification. Represented as the negative term of sexual differentiation, spectacle-fetish or specular image, in any case ob-scene, the woman is constituted as the ground of representation, the looking-glass held up to man (14-15).
De Lauretis’ simultaneous emphases on the verbal and the visual are suggestive for the medieval dramatic Eve, as medieval plays of the Creation and Fall of Man obviously deal with the ground of representation, and the ground – both the point of origin and the site of authorization – of an enduring sexual difference. The theatrical Eve, who is talkative in plays but mainly silent in the bible, provides a looking-glass for Adam, and for a world-view which struggles to capture and silence her even when she is most verbally aggressive. This article looks at Eve’s characterization and dialogue in the Anglo-Norman play known as the Jeu d’Adam, henceforth just Adam. The Adam play provides a psychologically engaging and sophisticated series of fillers for the biblical silences of Genesis; the play’s twin temptation scenes – first of Adam, then of Eve – embody a particular form of cultural labour, one that desires and thus manufactures Eve’s deficiency from textual lacks. In a sense, it is lack itself that enables this particular type of textual/cultural work; Eve’s own state of deficiency springs from textual deficiency. This same dynamic is evident in patristic commentaries on Genesis, and the play’s dynamics thus benefit from juxtaposition with commentaries by writers such as Augustine and Ambrose.
Adrienne Rich’s Marie Curie “died a famous woman denying/ her wounds/ denying/ her wounds came from the same source as her power” (3). Wounds and power go hand in hand in biblical story as well. While this article concentrates on the analytic and performative work – the cultural labour – that goes into the manufacture and maintenance of Eve’s deficiency, it must be remembered both that her deficient role enables many other moments of representation within biblical story (which frequently depict women reversing this deficiency – strength needs weakness) and also that this role is not inevitable for Eve. The immense popularity and centrality of the Eva/Ave (from Eve to Ave Maria) pun and paradigm is the best example of what could be called the payoff for Eve’s deficient position. Pamela Norris observes of the Virgin Mary that
… Mary’s role was not solely maternal and self-suppressing and, as her cult developed, she assumed ever grander titles reflecting her increasingly queen-like status and quasi-divine powers. Her multiple roles as Woman of Valour, Mediatrix, Woman Clothed with the Sun, Queen of Heaven and so on, drew freely on religious and secular metaphor and provided fresh incentive to the artistic imagination, while at the same time separating her even further from fallen Eve. Yet Eve was always a shadowy presence in Mary’s triumphant elevation. Without her there would have been no need for Mary, and her mythology influenced and enriched Mary’s cult. Two themes linking the Mother of All Living with the Mother of God proved particularly fruitful and tenacious: the concept of the hortus conclusus, the enclosed garden, and the felix culpa, the happy fault (242).
The Virgin Mary, too, needs a mirror to exist and wounds on which to found her power; lyrics often mention her in almost the same breath as Eve, just as the Adam play includes a temporally-disjunctive reference to the coming of Mary’s son in Adam’s lament about the Fall of Man. Eve’s deficiencies are as much building blocks for later sufficiencies as anything else.
This article attempts to look not merely at some characters who need the mirror of Eve to exist, but also at the mirror itself, which of course shows us mostly what we want to see. Barbara Freedman, in “Frame Up: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, Theatre,” points to various ways in which Lacanian theory depends on narratives from Western humanist theatre, and comments that it “has proven especially useful for describing how masculinity depends upon woman as both the castrated Other and as externalized lack” (58). Freedman goes on to discuss how Lacanian theory – and in particular, exploration of the notion of woman as lack – underlies much of the early work by feminist theorists on the subject of traditional “phallocentric narrative and cinema” (59). She points to the influence of critics such as de Lauretis and Laura Mulvey in the development of a language fit to describe ways in which the pleasure of both narrative and film “depends upon and in turn develops coercive identifications with a position of male antagonism toward women”(59). This visual and verbal antagonism is something that I would like to explore in relation to the medieval theatrical Eve, mirror to Adam and to so many others.
Mulvey’s influential article from Screen, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” points out that the production of images of women as such is not the issue, as that production is symptomatic of larger practices and cultural systems. This is of course one of the opening salvos of feminist film/image criticism as an academic discipline. Mulvey’s article, written in 1975, articulates many of the early assertions of feminist film criticism, chief among which is that women’s images in traditional (and especially Hollywood) films are projections of male desire:
Going far beyond highlighting a woman’s to-be-looked-at-ness, cinema builds the way she is to be looked at into the spectacle itself. Playing on the tension between film as controlling the dimension of time (editing, narrative) and film as controlling the dimension of space (changes in distance, editing), cinematic codes create a gaze, a world, and an object, thereby producing an illusion cut to the measure of desire. It is these cinematic codes and their relationship to formative external structures that must be broken down before mainstream film and the pleasure it provides can be challenged … . Women, whose image has continually been stolen and used for this end, cannot view the decline of the traditional film form with anything much more than sentimental regret (11).
Mulvey’s formulation of an illusion cut to the measure of desire still provides a productive approach to the nature of the constructedness of women in Hollywood films and, for the purposes of this inquiry, perhaps in medieval drama as well. This is not merely an issue to do with the male gaze, so often invoked by feminist critics as a problem or even as the problem. The issue of the gaze is a fraught one for the medievalist, since it cannot be construed as automatically or unproblematically male in any literal sense. Kathleen Ashley, writing on “meta-messages” about work and craft skills in the York cycle, wonders:
… what kind of identification a female member of the audience would have with craft representations of shipwrights or pinners or thatchers – crafts that women did not practise. Or, what was her response to Dame Percula in the Pilate play or to other misogynist characters or speeches? Was the reflexivity even available to a woman observer? (21)
The question of female response is obviously urgent but it is not, however, easy to address. Feminist film theory often emphasizes ways in which action becomes a masculine prerogative in the Hollywood cinema, and ways in which the gaze itself reinforces dynamics represented in performance; female spectators are then said either to identify with the narrative process or to resist identification in various ways. But the female gaze itself remains under-theorized and problematic even for contemporary films, let alone medieval plays. Mary Ann Doane points to the “seemingly insurmountable difficulties in conceptualizing the female gaze” and observes that the female spectator often finds herself “stranded between incommensurable entitities” (169).
Mulvey’s article “Afterthoughts on ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ inspired by King Vidor’s Duel in the Sun (1946)” likewise wonders “what about the women in the audience?” (125). Unfortunately, speculation as to whether or not the female spectator is “carried along, as it were by the scruff of the text, or whether her pleasure can be more deep-rooted” is unresolvable in relation to medieval plays, where female reception of drama remains one of the weakest areas of evidence (125). Mulvey’s discussion of female characters who are unable to achieve a “stable sexual identity” must be severely decontextualized in order for it to work with a discussion of a medieval male transvestite theatre, given that she concentrates on female characters (and female audience members who identify with them) who are caught between representational worlds – women like Pearl of Duel in the Sun, who in Mulvey’s argument, “brings out [the] sadness” of masculine identification and thus highlights the manner in which the “female spectator’s fantasy of masculinization” is “restless in its transvestite clothes” (Afterthoughts, 126). Since the article’s focus is on a kind of female masculinization that manifests at least partly through transvestism, it has some possibilities in relation to medieval plays such as the English Noah plays, with their masculinized and restless wives. Despite their disconnection from the Oedipal nostalgia central to Mulvey’s article, the English Mrs. Noahs bear some resemblance to Mulvey’s screen women forced to choose between married femininity and a macho world, women characterized by “oscillation of desire” and tending to approach “action” through “a metaphor of masculinity” (Afterthoughts, 133). Still, we can never know if the medieval female spectator mirrored this oscillation of identifications, as Mulvey hypothesizes for a contemporary female audience. Whatever nostalgia the cross-dressed Mrs. Noahs are seen to feel – perhaps especially in the Chester play, with its silent, drowned women – it is a nostalgia that is difficult to unpack and difficult to assign to particular audience members.
The most useful aspect of “Afterthoughts” in relation to medieval plays is Mulvey’s work on the probability of the female spectator taking on a “masculine ‘point of view’” – something that is highly suggestive in terms of what it implies about the conflation of the masculine point of view and the general point of view (Afterthoughts, 126). How much resistance to this conflation did the female spectator experience? How can we ever evaluate the didactic effect of these plays, in terms of affect in particular? An emphasis on the masculine point of view brings Mulvey back the issues raised in her original article on visual pleasure, in which the problem is not one of voyeurism but of representational systems that take on inevitable or ineluctable qualities. This once again raises the question of what is desired in and through the medieval theatrical Eve, who in terms of her cross-dressed physical person may be an unlikely or compromised object for specifically sexual desire in any simple, straight-up – or straight – sense, but who nevertheless concentrates many desires and anxieties to do with guilt, sex, sin and hierarchy.
Adam’s gain, Eve’s loss:
Imaginative License, Patristic Commentaries and the Fall of Man
Medieval plays of the Creation and Fall of Man tend to develop an Adam who is always slightly exonerated through juxtaposition with Eve, though the degree of sympathy for Eve varies quite widely, as does her actual characterization in different plays. The medieval theatre, drawing on a wide range of textual traditions, insists on Eve’s weakness relative to Adam, even in the face of biblical silences and problems; indeed, there is a sense of male imaginative license – men are invited to speculate about Eve’s unknown words, on the grounds that temptations produced by women are particularly hard to resist. This formulation of course depends on the idea that women exist primarily in relation to men, which is a premise that must be considered especially seriously in relation to a male-produced and male-performed theatre.
I would like to examine this sense of imaginative license through an analysis of a small number of passages from commentaries on Genesis produced by Ambrose and Augustine. These selected moments provide a useful window into a much larger expanse of interpretive and imaginative activity. Created largely from biblical lacks and omissions, Eve has been and continues to be a site of great and frequently masculine imaginative output; to use Mulvey’s phrase from “Afterthoughts” Eve is “an indicator, a litmus article, of the problems inevitably activated by any attempt to represent the feminine in patriarchal society” (Afterthoughts, 133). A considerable amount of this imaginative output converges in key respects and labours to fix Eve within a frame of sexual hierarchy, even while the frame itself is flexible in that it can be written and rewritten in many and various ways. One way to suggest some of the scope and trajectory of approaches taken to Eve is to select key moments from influential biblical commentaries, with the inevitable caution that the subject of biblical commentaries on Genesis, and on Eve in particular, is immense. It is difficult to demonstrate a clear relationship between the works of even someone seen to have exerted a profound influence on medieval views about Eve, or about Adam as persuaded by feminine wiles, and a specific dramatic text. In some cases cross-referencing is made simpler through other forms of evidence, as is the case with Augustine, whose strong presence in biblical glosses throughout the medieval period can help to shape our estimation of his degree and manner of influence. Yet it remains a challenge to contextualize chosen moments from the spectrum of biblical commentary.
Commentaries on Genesis are many and mighty and also based on a short, oblique and interpretively difficult section of scripture. Scholars point out with increasing frequency the ways in which interpretations of Genesis depend on an opaque section of biblical text. Eric Jager calls Genesis a “relatively terse narrative” which must be “analyzed, explained, amplified, and allegorized in its every detail to yield its divine and (often) hidden riches” (12). Erich Auerbach describes the process of Augustine’s exegesis as “a constant effort to fill in the lacunae” (75). An obvious pitfall is that new interpretations of Genesis will be importing their own cultural materials and installing them between the lines just as has been done in the past, under the guise of seeking merely to reappropriate some lacunae. My point in examining some selections from the works of Ambrose and Augustine is not to provide broad historical context, but to highlight a coherence of approach on the part of the two commentators – a coherence that is suggestive of a profound investment in a representational model within which Adam’s gain is Eve’s loss. The bible, which affirms Eve’s existence but fails to provide limitations on her imagined speeches and actions, offers her few protections.
In Genesis 2, God’s precept about eating the fruit precedes the creation of Eve. Patristic writings often interpret this precedence to mean that Eve learns of the prohibition through Adam. Ambrose was the first Latin exegete to address the hierarchy of Eden in detailed terms. In his writings, Adam is someone who has a direct and intimate acquaintance with God, while Eve has an indirect one. Ambrose assumes that Adam correctly conveys the substance of God’s injunctions to her, in one of several key assumptions common in patristic readings of the fall. Ambrose also cites Paul, as a means of resolving textual problems in Genesis, on the fact that Adam was not deceived. His approach to the subject is one that is geared towards resolution of textual silences, and this resolution is achieved through the deployment of silence for Adam’s benefit. Ambrose comments:
Habemus enim quia Adam, non Eva mandatum acceperit a Deo. Nondum enim mulier formata fuerat. Ipsa quidem verba Adae quibus mulieri dixit formam seriemque mandati, non prodit lectio: sed intelligimus per virum ad mulierem seriem transisse mandati. Viderint tamen alii quid sentiant; mihi tamen videtur a muliere coepisse vitium, inchoasse mendacium. Nam etsi de duobus videatur incertum, tamen sexus prodit qui prius potuerit errare. Adde quia praejudicio illa constringitur, cujus et postea prior error inventus est. Viro enim mulier, non mulieri vir auctor erroris est. Unde et Paulus ait: Adam, inquit, non est deceptus: mulier autem seducta in praevaricatione fuit (7.56).
We know that it was not Eve, but Adam, who received the command from God, because the woman had not yet been created. Scripture does not reveal the exact words that Adam used when he disclosed to her the nature and content of the command. At all events, we understand that the substance of the command was given to the woman by the man. What opinions others have offered on this subject should be taken into consideration. It seems to me, however, that the initial violation and deceit was due to the woman. Although there may appear to be an element of uncertainty in deciding which of the two was guilty, we can discern the sex which was liable first to do wrong. Add to this the fact that she stands convicted in court whose previous error is afterward revealed. The woman is responsible for the man’s error and not vice-versa. Hence Paul says: ‘Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and was in sin’ (Paradise, 336-7).
Ambrose makes a series of conscious decisions about biblical silences, both acknowledging them in his text, and then dismissing or resolving them in Adam’s favour. The marked patristic trend of reiteration of Paul’s dicta on the subject of Genesis manifests a great deal of anxiety about the recalcitrance of the biblical text itself. Paul’s assertion that the woman was deceived and the man was not is frequently invoked when the silence of the biblical text itself becomes potentially disruptive in relation to a given interpretive act.
A desire for Eve to be deficient creates a feedback loop in which Eve is assumed to do (and to have done) wrong first precisely because we can discern the sex which is liable first to do wrong. Thus the correctness of Adam’s teachings about the fruit is assumed even though Eve recites the injunction incorrectly to the Serpent in the biblical text, adding another element when she says that touching the fruit is forbidden. Ambrose reads her corruption of God’s injunction as her own error and as a lesson about the need to preserve scripture unaltered. He firmly rejects the notion that Adam might have passed God’s injunction on in an imperfect state, though of course the biblical gap is there for such a reading to be suggested. Ambrose asserts that:
In mandato quidem nullum vitium est, sed in relatione mandati. Etenim quantum praesens lectio docet, discimus nihil vel cautionis gratia jungere nos debere mandato. Si quid enim vel addas, vel detrahas, praevaricatio quaedam videtur esse mandati. Pura enim et simplex mandati forma servanda, vel testimonii series intimanda est. Plerumque testis dum aliquid ad seriem gestorum ex suo adjicit, totam testimonii fidem partis mendacio decolorat. Nihil igitur vel quod bonum videtur, addendum est. Namque hic quid offensionis habet prima specie quod addidit mulier: Neque tangetis ex eo quidquam? Tangetis enim Deus non dixerat, sed non edetis. Sed tamen lapsus incipit esse principium (7.56).
There was nothing inexact about the command itself. The error lay in the report of the command. The Scriptural passage under discussion is self-explanatory. We realize that we ought not to make any addition to a command even by way of instruction. Any addition or qualification of a command is in the nature of a falsification. The simple, original form of a command should be preserved or the facts should be duly set before us … . No addition therefore – not even a good one – is called for. What is, therefore, at first sight unobjectionable in the addition made by the woman: ‘Neither shall you touch anything of it’? God did not say this, but, rather, ‘you must not eat.’ Still, we have something here which leads into error (Paradise, 336-7).
The insistence that biblical silence covers over an endless series of female inadequacies and errors both depends on and leads into a system of sexual difference, which can then be allegorized and generalized as the basis for culture. Once Eve is the root of sin she can also take on other roles, such as that of flesh against spirit, or sensuality against reason, or any of a range of systems mimetic of a woman/man binary.
Augustine’s writings, like those of Ambrose, also show a degree of tension on the point of the instruction of Eve with regard to the forbidden fruit. Augustine was using a version of the Old Latin Bible which contained plural forms (mistranslated from Greek and later corrected by Jerome) in the scene of God’s speech about the tree. Augustine, faced with the plural forms in his text, nevertheless produced a series of readings strongly oriented towards a direct and intimate teaching relationship between Adam and God and a regulated, and subsequent, transmission of knowledge from Adam to Eve. Though Augustine’s own text necessarily starts with an acknowledgment that God may be addressing both Adam and Eve, he still erases Eve from the moment of instruction, and proceeds to cite another Pauline dictum on women learning from their husbands. His chapter on this issue – titled An utrique, Adamo et Evae, datum sit praeceptum, “Was the prohibition against eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil given to both the man and the woman?” – is worth looking at in some detail, as it encapsulates a clear sense of Augustine’s awareness of gaps and problems in the biblical text:
Merito sane quaeritur utrum hoc praeceptum viro tantum dederit Deus, an etiam feminae? Sed nondum narratum est quemadmodum facta sit femina. An forte jam erat facta? sed hoc quemadmodum gestum sit quod prius erat gestum, postea recapitulando narratum est. Verba enim Scripturae sic se habent: Et praecepit Dominus Deus Adae, dicens; non dixit, praecepit eis: deinde sequitur, Ab omni ligno quod est in paradiso esca edes; non dixit, edetis. Deinde adjungit, De ligno autem cognoscendi bonum et malum, non manducabitis de illo: jam hic tanquam ad ambos pluraliter loquitur, et pluraliter praeceptum terminat dicens, Qua die autem ederitis ab eo, morte moriemini. An sciens quod ei facturus erat mulierem, ita praecepit ordinatissime, ut per virum praeceptum Domini ad feminam perveniret? Quam disciplinam in Ecclesia servat Apostolus, dicens: Si quid autem discere volunt, domi viros suos interrogent (36).
With very good reason it is asked whether God gave his command to the man only or to the woman also. But the writer has not yet told how the woman was made. Can it be that she really was already made? … . The words of Scripture are: And the Lord God commanded Adam, saying … The writer did not say, “He commanded them.” Then he continues: You may eat of every tree that is in Paradise. He did not say, “You both may eat.” Then God added: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you [plural] shall not eat. Here the verb is in the plural, presumably because God is addressing both of them; and then He concludes this command still using the plural form: In the day that you eat of it you shall die.
Another explanation could be that, since God knew He was going to make the woman for the man, He thus gave His command with observance of the proper order so that the command of the Lord would come through the man to the woman. This is the rule that St. Paul urges in the Church: If they would learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home (The Literal Meaning of Genesis, 58).
The explanation that Augustine ultimately fixes on is that God’s plural form reflects a sense in which God’s knowledge of the forthcoming creation of the woman informs God’s speech and expresses a sense that the command will be passed on by Adam to Eve. This formulation of course supports Augustine’s view that man’s instructional relationship with God is more direct than woman’s, and though he does acknowledge that there is good reason for interpretive uncertainty, he nevertheless acts and interprets in a manner meant to dispel that uncertainty. He mentions uncertainty as a rhetorical strategy, to give the impression through mentioning it that he has addressed it seriously. Again the bandaid over the biblical silence is Paul. Jager points to Augustine’s reliance on Paul in interpreting Genesis as part of a pattern in which:
Augustine reveals that a sense of male superiority, and not simply rhetorical and narrative analysis, is driving his conviction that Adam was intellectually and verbally “closer” to God than Eve was (30).
A main goal of patristic commentaries on the creation story is the delineation of a hierarchy of the sexes; biblical gaps, silences, and knots are often strategically employed in the service of a drive towards polarization and abjection of the feminine. The disagreement between Ambrose and Augustine on the issue of whether Eve remembers God’s injunction about the forbidden fruit is one of several key moments in biblical interpretation in which it becomes apparent that if the desire is there for Eve to be deficient, then there is actually no way for Eve to come out on top. Desire sets the terms and establishes the manner in which Eve grounds representation.
It is clear that both Ambrose and Augustine desire Eve’s deficiency, but they arrive at this end by various paths. Where Ambrose on the one hand condemns Eve’s altered version of God’s command, Augustine on the other points to it as evidence of her awareness of God’s injunction; remembering it, her sin is compounded, being a deliberate transgression rather than an accidental or thoughtless one. Augustine says: Ideo prius interrogavit serpens, et respondit hoc mulier, ut praevaricatio esset inexcusabilis, neque ullo modo dici posset, id quod praeceperat Deus oblitam fuisse mulierem (38). (“The serpent, then, first asked the question, and the woman replied, so that her transgression would be inexcusable, and no one would be able to say that the woman had forgotten the command of God” (168).) Just as for Ambrose, Eve sins because women are more liable to sin, for Augustine, she mentions the ban in order to be seen to behave inexcusably. Eve is trapped in this self-sustaining loop of interpretation. These two quite different perspectives both serve the same function: they intensify a sense of Eve’s culpability. While Ambrose’s and Augustine’s comments are founded on opposing premises – her incorrect and correct recollection of God’s command respectively – their rhetorical function either way is to anchor blame and weakness on Eve.
The peculiar ideological alignment of these two opposing views shows up the ways in which forces within patriarchal culture can cooperate in a larger project of fixing woman’s place: they can work together in productive ways, doing particular kinds of cultural labour, despite serious differences. It also shows up the ways in which a small breakage within the dominant cinema’s frame of sexual hierarchy repairs itself. The breakage and the repair go hand in hand; this is one of the most significant dynamics when looking at ways in which patriarchy produces and maintains itself (and as we shall see, performs and promulgates itself). Though these two readings of that moment are different and irreconcilable, and are produced by authoritative people, the frame remains undamaged, as it is designed for that precise type of flexibility – a paradoxical kind of flexible sameness. No internally-produced attack on it – no difference of interpretation that engages with the frame itself – can ever do more reiterate and entrench its premises. For there to be a different result, there must be a different desire. And yet these residual problems, these moments of visible fracture and necessary repair, are just as important as any fictions they are designed to support. Such moments of breakage make it impossible to say that the dominant cinema, to return to de Lauretis’ phrase, is naturally or inevitably or perfectly dominant.
Biblical silence and the invitation to imagine
The willingness of biblical commentators to abject Eve depends on a sense that the biblical lack constitutes an invitation to produce narratives about sexual polarization. Eve’s persuasive voice can reach a high pitch, but is frequently contained by a frame of sexual hierarchy which is flexible enough both to produce and simultaneously to contain her utterances. Eve can say anything – powerful and transgressive things – but so long as she is Eve, she is contained by the cautionary aspects of her tale: to the believing reader or audience, the outcome of her story is certain, and thus in literary adaptations or subsequent commentaries, the fiction of recreating reality, of mimesis, is maintained. What she says, furthermore, is constructed with an eye to the notion that women’s voices are temptations for men – this being the case, women’s voices are constructed specifically in relation to their effects on men.
Biblical silence is one of the most important keys to Eve’s usefulness in literary culture. Scripture makes another reference to the missing episode of Adam’s temptation by Eve in God’s later rebuke to Adam in Genesis 3:17 about having listened to the voice of his wife. Writers of every sort have been pleased to follow up on that hint and that silence, as Eve’s various persuasive speeches (e.g. from Adam, N-Town, Chester and York) remind us. Medieval dramatic versions of the fall depend particularly heavily on exegetical tradition, which provides ample sanction for speculation about what Eve might have said and how – and why. One of the most significant moments of sanction is Augustine’s comment in The Literal Meaning of Genesis that Eve gives the apple to Adam “fortassis cum verbo suasorio, quod Scriptura tacens intelligendum relinquit” (11.30.39), “using perhaps some persuasive words which Scripture does not record but leaves to our intelligence to supply” (162). This stance embodies an apparent patristic consensus that there is an ongoing strategic censorship of women’s words evident in Genesis, and this consensus in turn depends on a sense that the bible’s function is to guarantee Eve’s imperfections through absence and silence. Augustine’s formulation also borrows terms from the study of rhetoric to denote Eve’s persuasive utterances, thereby aligning Eve’s persuasive abilities with a rupture in the verbal order, in which female counsels are suspect and problematic. Creation and censorship of women’s words thus become the twin prerogatives of male writers working with and from the bible – the powers to bind and loose at the verbal level.
These powers are used to produce a seemingly endless series of transgressive verbal acts for women, and then to inscribe and fix these acts within the frame of sexual hierarchy. Feminine persuasion thus becomes a distinctive form of rhetoric that is aimed at producing effects on men; paradoxically, of course, these feminine persuasions emerge from male textual production(s). This is the heart of the matter, that feminine persuasion is so often a projection of male desire. It is useful to incorporate this notion of rhetoric – rhetoric as praxis – into the analysis of texts produced by men – and in the case of medieval biblical drama in England, generally performed exclusively by men as well – that regularly assign persuasive speeches of different types to women and then employ those instigating speeches to support particular models of gendered interaction, such as the verbal roles in a marriage or the place of female counsels in the body politic or the home. This is an especially important point in relation to the many invocations of Eve’s counsels that are used to reinforce a problematization of women’s speech. The whole debate really has more interesting things to reveal about men than about women.
In the end, sanction for invention on the theme of Eve’s persuasions has its chief patristic roots in an Augustinian perhaps: perhaps she used some persuasive words. The uncertain quality of Eve’s biblical silence has enabled – still enables – it to support a vast range of interpretive labours. It is Eve’s silence in Genesis, for example, that permits the doctrine of Adam’s benevolent fall, as his unknown motivations are given the best possible spin in the face of her assumed persuasive abilities. Eve is a major figure in medieval anti-feminist discourse precisely because of her distinctive combination of authorized significance – her so-often fixed place in the sexual hierarchy – and her user-friendly unfixed voice. Being more an unknown quantity than a known one, she can serve as a signifier for multiple discourses and voices, many of which can be accommodated within the powerful frame of deficiency. It is in this unfixed incarnation that she appears as a chief source of the Wife of Bath’s frustrations with her husband’s reading habits, or as Gawain’s leading lady in his catalogue of misleading women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Eve’s combination of authorization and slipperiness depends on the opacity of the biblical text. She is the more useful for her lack of specificity, and the more effective specifically because she is often perceived to exist within a limited and limiting code.
The mirrored temptations of the Adam play
De Lauretis poses this question in the course of a discussion of mythical structures in cinema: “how did Medusa feel seeing herself in Perseus’ mirror just before being slain?” It is one of her more frequently-quoted remarks, and one which has accrued a range of answers, among them the rather amusing “I would say miserable beyond words” (And the mirror cracked, 112). De Lauretis goes on to observe that:
Our culture, history and science do not provide an answer; but neither do the modern mythologies, the fictions of our social imagination, the stories and the images produced by what may be called the psychotechnologies of our everyday life. Medusa and the Sphinx, like the other ancient monsters, have survived inscribed in hero narratives, in someone else’s story, not their own; so they are figures or markers of positions – places and topoi – through which the hero and his story move to their destination and to accomplish meaning (109).
As feminist critics know, there is great value to the formulation of being embedded in someone else’s story. Hélène Cixous broods about the implications of the phrase, biblical sense intact, “c’est écrit”: it is written (42). This of course is what often makes it difficult to discuss Eve, for to discuss her is to appropriate her into story – whether the story of creation, or of the felix culpa, or into a narrative of female or feminist rebellion. Her best story, and the one told most frequently, is the story of sexual difference. The simultaneous explanation and establishment of sexual distinctions is obviously one of the main points of creation stories in particular, and we have already seen Ambrose and Augustine struggling to make this ever clearer to their readers even in the face of real resistance from their chosen source text. A drive towards sexual polarization is also certainly one of the points – perhaps the point – of many narratives based on the creation story of Genesis, just as the Genesis text itself is at once descriptive and prescriptive. Mary Rose D’Angelo observes that “Much of the power of the Genesis myths comes from our conviction that the intrigues of the garden are really over us, that they embody and explain our sexual arrangements in some primordial and definitive way” (1). Eve’s words in medieval drama do serve to explain, and in many cases to justify, arrangements and frames for sexual hierarchy that are familiar to the playwrights and audiences. They contribute to a sort of discursive order, in which what Eve says is presented in a way that simultaneously describes, produces and comments on gender relations. Eve’s words in dramatic texts thus reflect both desire (what people want her to have said) and containment (notions that shape culture).
Eve shares a problem with Medusa. Beautiful and deadly, she lives beyond our direct gaze – she lives in a gap. We only see the fillers. The function of a mirror image constructed within a dominant cinema is to provide what is desired, and what is generally desired in medieval plays of the Fall is Eve’s state of deficiency. This does not mean that Eve must always or inevitably be seen to be weak or bad; she is neither always malign nor always maligned. It means merely that she serves as a looking-glass for Adam, and for many other people as well – it is in this sense that she is a ground of representation, giving shape and coherence to many things outside herself. As an interpretive tool, the looking-glass provides insights into many different characters outside of biblical story; it is a relational paradigm that expresses the desire for certain things to go hand in hand: life and death, gain and loss, strength and weakness, man and woman. The paradigm lends itself easily to the analysis of heterosexual complementarity – what Rich would term compulsory heterosexuality – in literary texts.Wherever Eve serves as a type for women’s disordered and disordering counsel, and wherever her words are projected onto a biblical silence, her verbal activities are really what the writers – and audiences – want her to have said. This cannot help but be interesting, and multitude of desires have been and continue to be expressed through Eve.
Let me turn now to the twin temptations of the Anglo-Norman Adam play, an impressive and sophisticated early play in Norman French covering several Old Testament episodes, among them the Creation and Fall of man, the murder of Abel and the Messianic prophecies. As with any Creation play and especially the ones which struggle towards developed characterization of Adam and Eve, Adam is a rich resource for the gender theorist, in its attempts to represent both pre- and postlapsarian gender roles, in its extra-biblical explorations of the nature of the fallen world, in its elaboration on Eve’s feminine persuasion, and in other offshoots of its envisioning of the first couple and their travails. Adam is particularly innovative in its handling of the two moments of temptation of both Adam and Eve by the Devil, and later by Eve of Adam. These scenes constitute imaginative versions of dialogues left silent in Genesis; obviously, of course, they mirror one another in suggestive ways and give the critic an unusual chance to look ‘at’ the mirror directly. The prior, failed temptation of Adam and the appearance of the Devil rather than the serpent as Tempter have no liturgical or biblical basis. The juxtaposition of the two scenes of the temptation of Adam and Eve respectively allows for comparative work on constructed gender in a way that few other sources permit: this is the mirror that I will examine, an instance of direct comparison that is unprecedented in medieval vernacular theatre.
Adam and Eve’s marital interactions are most significant and interesting when they are under stress. This is particularly true of the respective temptation scenes of Adam and Eve, which, being scenes that take place before the fall, reveal a multitude of ways in which Eve’s innocence is undermined before it can be viewed as officially lost. Adam’s representational gain is founded on Eve’s loss and lack. Adam’s temptation is preceded by an interlude of mime, described in the Latin rubric, in which devils run about making whatever would constitute appropriate gestures and showing Eve the forbidden fruit. This is in line with the scriptural account, but it also marks Eve as a recipient of the Devil’s attentions – indeed, as the proper recipient of them. In Adam this interlude is immediately followed by the Devil’s attempt to tempt Adam rather than Eve. The first of two scenes of Adam’s temptation moves from a series of short, choppy exchanges between the Devil and Adam into progressively longer exchanges; it then comes to a sudden end. This pattern perfectly captures the dynamic of someone sucked unwillingly into a conversation, willing to tolerate it for a little while, then, suddenly angry and impatient, violently disengaging. It is not a pattern in which any moment of weakness on Adam’s part can be identified.
The Devil takes a range of tacks in his approach to Adam. Adam’s resistance to sin in many of its various forms has a rock-solid doctrinal aspect which certainly reflects well on him and functions as character development and didacticism at once. It is the way things should be done. The Devil starts with an interrogative tone, asking many little questions about Adam’s life. Adam seems so happy with his life that the Devil has trouble finding something to get a grip on. He maneuvers Adam into asking how his life could be better, thus cleverly transferring the weaker interrogative position onto his quarry. Adam wins the stronger declarative position back when he qualifies his interest in the answer – he specifies one area in which he will not listen (“Fors de une rien” “Everything except for one thing” 132), which he defines thus: “Mon creator pas ne offendrai” (“I will not offend my maker” 134). The Devil is back in the interrogative position for some time; Adam however does not show many verbal tics and weaknesses, unless, as Muir suggests, the fear he admits to relative to God (“Jo l’aim e criem” “I love and fear him” 135) is not the desirable Timor Domini of Proverbs I, 7 (the beginning of wisdom) but the undesirable fear of I John IV, 8 which cannot coexist with perfect charity (Adam, 62).
No further issue arises til Adam describes the ban on the fruit to the Devil, of which all the appropriately gesturing devils in the earlier rubric have demonstrated a prior knowledge. It seems that the reason Adam is induced to speak of it is to raise the question in his mind – a sort of test, to see if (as Eve, of course, later does – this is, in fact, the point of bringing it up now) he will fall easily into the first stage of sin, a contemplative stage. He does not. Adam points out the fruit with an apparent lack of desire for it, just as he earlier demonstrates an apparent lack of curiosity about questions that the Devil wishes him to ask, preferring to make statements. He again demonstrates a lack of curiosity when he refuses to follow up on the Devil’s question about God’s motivation for the ban: “Sez tu por quoi?” (“Do you know why?”) with the easiest answer for someone not in the know. Instead of saying, “Non, por quoi?” (“No, why?”) Adam merely says, “Jo? Certes non” (“I? No, indeed” 152). His answer displays a fine sense of his own proper position relative to God’s motivations. The interrogative “Jo?” implies a surprise that he should know or be expected to know, and followed by an emphatic denial (certainly not!), he appositively expresses a sense that he should not know or be expected to know. This, the audience is to understand, is all presented under the rubric of what Eve should say (or, in a suggestive instance of temporal slippage, what she should have said but did not – though of course, the scene of her temptation is yet to come).
The Devil does tell Adam why the fruit is banned. Adam slips far enough, perhaps in surprise at the idea of the fruit of knowledge, to ask how eating the fruit could benefit him. This is the precise kind of opening the Devil wants and he takes it up immediately with the assertive and suggestive phrase “Tu le verras” (“You’ll see”), followed by a list of benefits associated with eating the fruit (160). Adam, however, has got his groove back during the Devil’s speech and tells him flatly that he will not do it – several times. Again there is a sense that Adam’s conversational lapse and recovery are presented precisely to demonstrate that it is possible to recover (though Eve does not/will not/has not recover[ed]). The Devil’s subsequent retreat appears in the rubric as a kind of mimed regrouping; he goes and mingles with the other demons, perhaps with the idea of getting good advice or restoring his lost temper – a possibility implied in his return to the fray “hilaris et gaudens” (“cheerful and rejoicing” 15). The Devil’s second try at temptation of Adam is less productive even than the first; his speeches are considerably longer, while Adam’s are short, irritated negatives. The dynamic is now of someone brushing off an annoying person right away. The questions asked in this section invoke the fall of the Rebel Angels; they emphasize the possibility of greater things, and return constantly to the question, expressed and re-expressed, of whether Adam feels resentment about any aspect of his station. Adam, out of patience, moves away from discourse entirely by telling the Devil to go away – several times. Now “tristis et vultu demisso” (“sadly and with downcast countenance” 17) where he was formerly gaudens, the Devil again retreats for another demonic conference.
Now, of course, comes the time for the temptation of Eve, the thing itself. Recognition of this moment constitutes, for the audience, a sort of inescapable foreknowledge. Her failure to resist the temptation can clearly be seen to be inevitable and is in fact cultivated and emphasized in a multitude of ways in the text of the play both prior to and during the scenes right before the Fall (e.g. in God’s early mention of trouble to come through Eve). The Devil’s mood once more is cheerful when he finally makes his approach to Eve; interestingly, he is also obsequious in her case, approaching her “laeto vultu blandiens” (“with a joyful countenance, fawningly” 17). An obsequious approach to Eve is even better than an interrogative approach to Adam, as Milton readers will appreciate; it is the one approach guaranteed to attract her attention, being totally alien to her experience so far, and, as evident in an early speech to God about her loyalty and obedience to him and to Adam, alien to her own understanding of her place on the bottom rung of the teleological ladder. This being the case, the Devil does not bother asking lots of questions first, but speaks in declarative sentences from this whinging, fawning position. When he says, rather obviously, “ça sui venuz a toi” (“I have come to you”), Eve has no apparent difficulty in recognizing him, asking, “Di moi, Sathan, or tu pur quoi?” (“Tell me, Sathan, why?” 205-6). She falls immediately into the weak interrogative position, having a false sense of her own authority relative to the Devil. He capitalizes on her feeling that she has moved up a rung by suggesting that it might be possible to continue this upwards motion: “Jo vois querant tun pru, tun honor” (“I want to seek your profit, your honor” 206).
Eve’s inability to fend off the Devil’s various advances is in sharp contrast to Adam’s strong self-defense; even though this is all taking place before the fall, she is clearly seen to be the sort of person who cannot resist – she does not strike us as sufficient to have stood. When the Devil makes his next move, promising to tell her all the secrets of Paradise, she utterly fails to lay down a cautionary condition parallel to Adam’s refusal to offend his maker. She compounds her error immediately with a series of virtually unsolicited agreements: to listen to whatever the Devil has to say, not to anger him at all (de rien ), to keep a secret, and finally: upon being told by the Devil that he needs no further assurance from her (“Ne voil de toi altre fiance” “I wish no further assurance from you” 218), she volunteers a further one anyway (an action that strongly affirms a particular quality of negative expression, to wit, that it demands the very thing it negates): “Bien te pois creire a ma parole” (“You can certainly trust my word” 219).
Eve further demonstrates her weakness and her willingness to seek an alternative rung when she fails to defend Adam against the Devil’s assertion that Adam is a fool. She in fact adds a further (to her way of thinking) negative characteristic to the Devil’s description: “Un poi es durs” (“He’s a little hard”), which of course offers a window into her private sentiments, leading inevitably to the Devil’s promise that Adam will be soft. Some of the Devil’s clear irritation at his own experiences in dealing with Adam shows through in his subsequent comment, “Il est plus dors que n’est emfers!” (“He is harder than fire!” 223). Eve, belatedly, offers the defense that Adam is very noble. By now the Devil is secure enough in his position to contradict her directly; he calls Adam servile (mult serf ) and moves on to something else that is apparently new and enjoyable to Eve: flattery.
The Devil’s self-positioning at the conclusion of this speech is the same as his initial posture at the start of his temptation of Eve, one of servility: “Por ço [because of this, your wisdom] fait bon traire a toi. / Parler te voil” (“For this reason it is good to approach you./ I wish to speak with you” 235-6). This self-positioning functions as a critique of Eve’s interpretive weakness and her vanity; she is seen to be a point of access for temptations of several sorts. Eve once more agrees to listen, and promises not to tell Adam what she learns, in a clear symbolic choice to turn away from her relationship with him as described in early passages about the lei de mariage, in which she must be governed by Adam’s reason. The Devil’s subsequent description of the wonderful virtues of the forbidden fruit and the relative worthlessness of the fruit now available to her makes clever use of Eve’s demonstrated desire to change her place in the world – why not move up a rung in fruit as well? She is very interested to hear more about it and asks what it tastes like. The enticing nature of the Devil’s reply is really all it takes to tip her, unresisting, over the edge into active contemplation of eating it (the first stage of real sin on her part): “Ja me fait bien sol le veer” (“It does me good just to look at it” 260). This line represents a conscious attempt to render visible the internal act of contemplation of sin; it is preceded by a stage direction specifying that Eve should look at the forbidden fruit carefully and for long while. Seeing Eve in this stage of sin, the Devil now takes on the role of questioner that he has largely avoided with Eve, and asks her something he knows she cannot answer, counting on her to fail the test that Adam passed with Jo? certes non and his rejection of curiosity: “Si tu le mangues, que feras?” (“What will happen if you eat it?” 261). Eve, foolishly asks “E jo que sai?” (“How should I know?” 262). The solution to her ignorance is inevitably experience, as the Devil points out. His suggestion that she try the fruit first and then give some to Adam is instantly accepted – and later implemented – though Eve does waffle and delay when agreeing. She suggests waiting until Adam is asleep, and the Devil, a bit impatient, tells her not to be foolish, but departs; presumably Adam, who immediately approaches Eve, very annoyed (moleste ferens), moves towards her as the Devil departs.
All of these interactions provide substantiation for a key claim later to be made by Adam after the fall, that Eve is a willing participant in the destruction of the prelapsarian state: “Eve dolente, cum fus a mal delivre,/ Quant creütes si tost conseil de la guivre!” (“Despondent Eve, how inclined you were to evil,/ When you believed so quickly the counsel of the viper!” 539). The domestic conflict that is seen to exist before the fall, and which here takes the form of Adam’s irritated approach to his wife, is clearly attributable to Eve’s predisposition to evil. The point of these juxtaposed temptation scenes is to act out the mirroring function that Eve performs in relation to – and for – Adam, in very elegant and extended ways. Adam can look in that mirror at any point during his fall and nevertheless see that he is shored up by Eve’s ruins; she is the guarantee of his superiority. No matter how low he falls, he can never fall so low as Eve, and no matter how high she rises, she cannot rise above Adam, for she is the ground – the lowest point, as well as the origin – of (his) representation. In this way the Adam play gives performative shape and life – bodies and action – to the same interpretive dynamic seen in Ambrose’s and Augustine’s commentaries on Genesis 2.
“Tu es ma per”: legends of the fall
The mime preceding Adam’s temptation, in implying that Eve is the correct object for temptation, also implies that Adam is not the proper object for it. The little interludes of mime are structured in ways that reflect very well on Adam. The mime following the dialogue between Adam and Eve about what the Devil wants brings what is implied in the previous mime to fruition. An artfully constructed serpent (artificiose compositus) arises and appears to speak to a listening Eve, who then accepts the apple. When Eve takes the apple and holds it out to Adam, her voice has an unaccustomed authority: “Manjue, Adam! Ne sez que est. / Prenum ço bien que nus est prest” (“Eat, Adam. You don’t know what it is./ Let us take this good thing that is at hand for us” 292-3). Adam’s response is likewise a bit uncharacteristic, both uncertain and interrogative, “Est il tant bon?” (“Is it so good?”), probably because Eve’s own demeanour has suddenly changed so radically that he is not sure how to react (294).
Eve’s temptation of Adam actually follows the outline of an egging more than of a temptation. It is fundamentally aggressive rather than alluring or beseeching in tone – complete with an assertion from Eve that Adam is a coward: “Del demorer fais tu que las” (“You delay out of cowardice” 298). It is this accusation which brings Adam to agree to eat of the apple, even before Eve says she will eat some first. “E jo le prendrai” (“I’ll take it”) responds Adam immediately to the imputation of fearfulness (299). Perhaps this constitutes confirmation that fear is in fact Adam’s weakness; not Timor Domini but a weaker, more culpable fear of which he is ashamed and through which he can be manipulated (something also hinted at in the N-Town play of the Fall of Man, where only Adam’s dread seems to stand between him and sin). This scene shows up the ways in which Eve’s behaviour in the marriage is unnatural and fallen, though she has yet to taste the fruit. Her attack on Adam’s fear is an attack on his status in their relationship and to some extent predicates an assailable manhood that he must defend or lose. In defending what Eve attacks, Adam implicitly admits the accuracy of her strike and gives her value system priority over his own. His loss of authority is further emphasized when, after he has agreed to take the apple, Eve nevertheless tastes it first and is the one to describe its wonderful savour. Eve’s usurping of Adam’s rightful place here is an outward sign of profound corruption within her and within that marriage. Adam now asks of Eve what Eve once asked of the Devil, that is, what the fruit tastes like. In her answer Eve is very enthusiastic and compares herself with God. This scene is fascinating as it highlights the ways in which the play is not really about her fall (or anything to do with female subjectivity) but that of mankind, hence she shows no awareness of her fallen state. Adam, in one of the most frequently-quoted remarks in the play, says: “Jo t’en crerra. Tu es ma per” (“I’ll trust you in this. You are my partner” 313). Usually this line is accompanied with some apparently obligatory critical comment about how touching it is, and how it reflects terribly on Eve; both things are of course true. It is nevertheless revealing that Adam comes to that statement only after having agreed once already to eat the apple. This is because it seems necessary to re-emphasize Eve’s higher degree of responsibility at the penultimate moment. “Tu es ma per” stands as Adam’s last gasp, as it were, in a prelapsarian state, his final act of interpretation of his own fall before it is too late. The line has a massively recuperating effect on characterization of Adam (which does suffer in his last few weak exchanges with Eve) and a parallel stigmatizing effect on characterization of Eve – this is the mirror-act at work. Every loss for Eve is a gain for Adam.
If I return now to biblical commentaries on the specific subject of Eve’s delayed response to her own fall – a consistent feature of medieval plays of the fall – I find additional proofs of not merely one fall on Eve’s part, but two, in opposition to Adam’s single (mitigated) one. Let me proffer at least one influential explanation for Eve’s behaviour after she herself eats the fruit. Ambrose says:
Accipite aliud: Si assumptio de ligno scientiae boni et mali ita operatoria erat, ut bonum et malum agnosceretur; quod videtur Scriptura ostendere, dum dicit: Quia ubi manducaverunt ambo, aperti sunt oculi eorum, et cognoverunt quod nudi essent ; hoc est, aperti sunt oculi cordis, et cognoverunt turpe esse nudos se degere: sine dubio ubi gustavit mulier de ligno scientiae boni et mali, peccavit et se peccasse cognovit. Quae igitur se peccasse cognoverat, vel virum ad peccati communionem invitare non debuit. Illiciendo autem virum, et dando ei quod ipsa gustaverat, non vitavit, sed iteravit peccatum. Nam utique si vere rationem spectes, eum quem diligebat, non trahere ad consortium poenae, sed magis ab eo quod cognoverat ipsa esse peccatum, vel inscientem revocare debuerat; quamvis videatur haec mulier sciens quod post culpam in paradiso esse non posset, metuisse ne sola de paradiso ejiceretur (6.33).
One more point. The circumstances connected with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were such as to convince us that both good and evil were recognized. We are led to believe from the evidence of Scripture that such was the case: “When they both ate, their eyes were opened, and they realized that they were naked,” that is, the eyes of their mind were opened and they realized the shame of being naked. For that reason, when the woman ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil she certainly sinned and realized that she had sinned. On realizing this, she should not have invited her husband to share in her sin. By enticing him and by giving him what she herself had tasted she did not nullify her sin; rather, she repeated it. Certainly it stands to reason that she did intend to lure the person whom she loved to share in her punishment. She should be expected to ward off from one who was unaware of the danger of falling into a sin of which she had knowledge. Yet this woman, knowing that she could not remain in Paradise after the Fall, seems to have had a fear that she alone would be ejected from the Garden (Paradise, 311-2).
Thus we see the difficulty of Eve ever being interpreted, within a dominant cinema that desires her deficiency, from a position that does not fix her in a secondary position. Within this desire, as long as she is Eve, her to-be-looked-at-ness makes it possible for her to fall not once but continuously. Eve in medieval drama speaks with a fallen voice precisely in order to make Adam’s voice that much less fallen: to be the inferior looking-glass for a superiority that insists that if Adam had been tempted, he would have known how to respond properly. This assumption about Adam is the mirror image to the notion that at the convenience of either Ambrose or Augustine (et al), Eve must always not have acted properly.
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Jane Tolmie - Eve in the Looking-Glass: Interpretive labour in the Anglo-Norman Jeu d’Adam (88,5 KiB)
is assistant professor of Gender Studies and Cultural Studies at Queen’s University, Canada. She has research interests in early theatre, medieval romance (verse and prose), performance studies, sequential art, feminist, queer and gender theory.