“To Do This Through A Simple Maid”: The Rehabilitation of Joan of Arc's Image in Fifteenth-Century France

"In this thesis, I examine the construction of Joan of Arc’s image in the fifteenth century, acknowledging the fact that from the outset, she was a politically manufactured figure. I ask how a convicted heretic and idolater could be rehabilitated through association with royal and religious authority. In particular, the following question drives my analysis: how was the image of Joan of Arc constructed between 1428 and 1490? I argue that Joan’s rehabilitation was accomplished in two primary ways: first, depictions of Joan of Arc pacified her militaristic image through association with the symbols of conventional femininity. Second, these images also minimized the threat she posed to the consolidation of royal and religious authority following the end of the Hundred Years’ War. In order to rehabilitate Joan, artists and writers alike were inspired by a number of precedents from religion, classical literature and history. By the dawn of the sixteenth century, they had therefore created a symbol divorced from reality. Joan’s life was subsequently sanitized in a way that distilled her essence into a malleable symbol whose associations enabled her to become appealing to later political and religious movements."

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