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Medieval virginity theory explored through study of martyrs, nuns and Margery Kempe.
This study looks at the question of what it meant to be a virgin in the middle ages, and the forms which female virginity took. It begins with the assumptions that there is more to virginity than sexual inexperience, and that virginity may be considered as a gendered identity, a role which is performed rather than biologically determined. The author explores versions of virginity as they appear in medieval saints' lives, in the institutional chastity of nuns, and as shown in the book of Margery Kempe, showing how it can be active, contested, vulnerable but also recoverable.SARAH SALIH teaches in the Department of English at the University of East Anglia.