JOAN OF ARC: The Legend and the Reality by Frances Gies

JOAN OF ARC: The Legend and the Reality

Email this review


A moderate feminist biography of Joan, on a popular level, by the co-author (with her husband) of Life in a Medieval Castle (1974), Women in the Middle Ages (1978), etc. Gies stresses, for example, Joan's principled wearing of men's clothes and the fierce masculine prejudice and persecution she endured because of it. (When told that her dress was unsuitable for ""womanly duties,"" Joan replied that ""there were enough women to do them."") Joan's plucky and unself-conscious individualism, her refusal, among other things, to deny her ""voices"" have always appealed to biographers. Yet, as Gies' account continually reminds us, this bravery should be viewed, at least in part, as a heroic response to a specific and often vicious pattern of sexual oppression. Joan was judicially murdered because the English and the Burgundians considered her a witch (and a heretic). On the subject of Joan's visions, Gies lets the record speak for itself; given the distance between the early 15th and the late 20th century in this regard, this is a reasonable decision. The book concludes with a rapid survey of the figure of Joan in art, history, and literature. Less searching than Edward Lucie-Smith's psychohistorical life of Joan, the outstanding general biography of recent years, but clear, readable, and sympathetic without sentimentality.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row