Gender, Canonicity and Critique (completed)

The Hermeneutics of Feminism and Canon-Transformations.

Canonicity and canonization have been important in the humanities and social sciences of the last few decades. By canon we mean any corpus of texts that are recognised and respected as particularly authoritative or representative for a particular community and that continue to define, shape and provide expressions for that tradition.

About the project

The umbrella project aims to contribute to renewed theoretical reflection on the status of received cultural canons, especially religious, philosophical, and medical ones, in feminist gender studies.

Canonisation is a cultural process that takes place either we like it or not, for this reason it is important to analyse and discuss such processes and the effects they have in terms of gender. Historically, such processes have marginalised women’s expressions, which is also what feminist historians have pointed out. When in turn a text or corpus of texts has achieved canonical status, it starts functioning in a way that is regulative, normative and authoritative for further textual production. It naturalises the exclusion of those expressions that were not included in the canon in the first place and makes such processes of exclusion seem well argued and permanent. To analyse canon and canonisation in a gender-critical perspective implies the analysis of all these levels:

  • the processes of canonisation
  • how the end-product, the canon, functions as a norm
  • interventions, subversions and critique of existing canons
  • canon supplements, additions and suggested ”improvements” (e.g. by including women scholars, writers, doctors, philosophers etc.).

Focusing on women contesters of the canons and testers of gender boundaries surrounding the transmission of canons, the project is also a feminist self-critical one: How and why does gender-critical research contribute to the continued marginalisation of women writers of the past, and thus to the further reinforcement of a patriarchal canon? It is our feeling (that we will explore academically in the project) that there exists a knowledge gap that needs to be filled from both sides, between gender-critical studies of canons and the disciplines more specialised in analysing them.

In sum, the project will include historical analyses of women’s interpretations and appropriations of canonical texts. Examples are trained interpreters, but also artists, composers, novelists, etc. These analyses will be confronted with gender-critical readings of the canons proper, and together these two components provide a better foundation for further reflections on the issues of scripture, Scripture and women’s scripture; relationships between body, voice, authority and text.


The Norwegian Research Council. Period: 2008 - 2012.


Published Sep. 28, 2011 9:28 AM - Last modified Dec. 5, 2016 2:14 PM