I am an English literature and Francophone studies double major. I studied abroad in Toulouse, France during the fall of 2021, and at the same time, I conducted research on Anne of Brittany. In my research, I sought to further study her varied representations during and after her life in connection to her identity as a woman. Anne was queen of France twice in her life and duchess of Brittany. Her representation is contested largely due to her identity as a woman during the Middle Ages.
During my research I traveled to Nantes, Rennes, Paris, Tours, Langeais, Amboise, and Blois. My research in these cities mostly consisted of visiting museums, chateaus, and cathedrals. In each of the locations, I observed the way that Anne was represented in both primary and secondary sources, the way she was talked of during tours (including the specific language used), and I also purchased some key texts that were only available at those locations. In addition, I unexpectedly learned that the famous unicorn tapestries were traveling to Toulouse, France and I was able to go to that exhibit. This was very exciting because the exhibit was key to further understanding the general representation of women during that time. Finally, I interviewed Claire L’Hoër, a French author, who recently wrote a biography on Anne in 2020. I read her work and conducted an interview where I was able to further discuss Anne’s identity as a woman and the impact this had on her life and representation.
All the research I completed during my time abroad is serving as the foundation for my independent study in the fall of 2022. In Paris I was able to view Anne’s tomb and see the most accurate portrayal of Anne in her death mask. This was important because many of her portraits are not accurate representations of her and there is a large variation among them. In Nantes I was able to visit the Chateau she grew up in and was educated to be the future duchess of Brittany. Anne as a figure has reached mythological proportions in the Brittany region, thus it was interesting to compare her glowing representation as a figure of strength and independence for Brittany to that in the Loire Valley. For example, in Langeais, she was a young girl obsessed with her pretty dress and in Amboise she remained in the shadow of her husband. When Anne was mentioned in the tours or exhibits in Amboise it was most often in relation to religion and many locations presented her as pious. During my interview with Claire L’Hoër, I learned about her own personal research process when writing about Anne, which will be incredibly helpful going forward. We also discussed the ways in which Anne was able to control her own image through poetry, paintings, songs, books, and more. It would be impossible for me to write down everything I gained from my research in France, but I am excited to continue my research journey.