Sewing as Authority in the Middle Ages

Author(s): Rudy, Kathryn M.


This essay considers medieval sewing in light of Austin's speechact theory. Analysing manuscripts, relics, indulgences, and even a bishop's mitre, the article argues that stitching was a way to enact, or intensify, the ritual purpose of objects, whether that was ceremonial, devotional, or authoritative. Whereas a speech act functions by its utterance, stitches act by forming visible and often ceremonious attachments between materials in order to aggrandise, embellish, assert and layer author ity, or swathe an object in textiles as if it were a relic.

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Preferred Citation
Rudy, Kathryn M.: Sewing as Authority in the Middle Ages. In: ZMK Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung, Jg. 6 (2015), Nr. 1, S. 117-131. DOI:
 author = {Rudy, Kathryn M.},
 title = {Sewing as Authority in the Middle Ages},
 year = 2015,
 doi = "\url{}",
 volume = 6,
 address = {Hamburg},
 journal = {ZMK Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung},
 number = 1,
 pages = {117--131},
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