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ENGL407: Medieval Women Writers

Unit 2: Women and the Church   In the Middle Ages, the Church—an institution that then enjoyed cohesive social, political, and cultural power—monopolized education; besides a few wealthy aristocrats, clergymen and clergywomen were the only members of society that learned to read and write.  For this reason, a good number of female-authored works from the Middle Ages are by nuns, mystics, and other religiously-minded women.  In this unit, we will perform close readings of a number of works by such individuals, examining their self-presentation, their figurations of Christ and religious experiences, and the ways in which a predominantly masculine theology may have shaped or limited their self-expression. 

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Identify and explain the major ideas associated with Medieval women and the Church.
  • Discuss, in general terms, Medieval theology, the Church’s control of the press, emerging religious communities, as well as Medieval persecution, nunnery, conceptions of love, scripture and theology, hagiography, martyrdom, and sainthood.

2.1 Introduction to the Medieval Church   2.1.1 A Masculine Theology?   - Reading: UMILITA.net’s version of Equally in God’s Image: Women in the Middle Ages: Jane Barr’s “The Vulgate Genesis and St. Jerome’s Attitudes to Women” Link: UMILITA.net’s version of Equally in God’s Image: Women in the Middle Ages: Jane Barr’s "The Vulgate Genesis and St. Jerome's Attitudes to Women" (PDF)
 
Also available in:
ePub format on Google Books (pg 122-128)
 
Instructions: Read the entire article linked here for a feminist perspective on the medieval Church.  In particular, please note the emphasis on the masculine theology, in terms of who determines the Church practices as well as how male opinion impacts the Church’s treatment of women.
 
Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Julia Bolton Holloway, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

  • Lecture: iTunes U: Westminster Theological Seminary: Dr. Carl Trueman’s “Medieval Church”: “Introduction” Link: Westminster Theological Seminary: Dr. Carl Trueman’s “Medieval Church”: "Introduction"(iTunes U)
     
    Instructions: Please listen to the entire lecture for an introduction to the medieval Church.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.2 The Church’s Control of the Press and Literacy   - Reading: The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies’ version of Steven Muhlberger’s Medieval England: “Religion in Fifteenth-Century England”; Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “The Art of the Book in the Middle Ages” Links: The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies’version of Steven Muhlberger’s Medieval England: “Religion in Fifteenth-Century England” (HTML); Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “The Art of the Book in the Middle Ages”(HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire chapter of Muhlberger’s Medieval England for more information about the effects of the rise of literacy.  Then, read over the essay on how medieval books were used by the Church in universities, as well as for private devotional use. You may want to click “View Slideshow” for visual accompaniment to the text.
 
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2.1.3 The Emergence of Religious Communities   - Reading: The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies’ version of Yuri Koszarycz’s Ecclesiology: “The Beginnings of Monasticism”; Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Monasticism in Medieval Christianity” Link: The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies’ version of Yuri Koszarycz’s Ecclesiology: “The Beginnings of Monasticism” (HTML); Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Monasticism in Medieval Christianity”(HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the chapter on monasticism from Koszarycz’s Ecclesiology.  Also, please read the short essay on monasticism from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  As you read, make sure to look closely over the section titled “Women and Monasticism.”  You may want to click “View Slideshow” for visual accompaniment to the text.
 
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2.1.4 Persecution of Heretics   - Reading: The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies’ version of Yuri Koszarycz’s Ecclesiology: “The 11th to the 13th Centuries: Innocent III and the Great Schism” Link: The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies’version of Yuri Koszarycz’s Ecclesiology: “The 11thto the 13thCenturies: Innocent III and the Great Schism” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire section titled “The 11thto the 13thCenturies: Innocent III and the Great Schism.”  Please note that in order to read the full text of this section; you must follow the link titled “next” at the bottom left corner of the page.  
 
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2.1.5 Devotional Practices   - Reading: Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Private Devotion in Medieval Christianity” Link: Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Private Devotion in Medieval Christianity”(HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the short essay here for more information about devotion in the medieval era.  You may want to click “View Slideshow” for visual accompaniment to the text.
 
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2.2 Nuns, Female Mystics, and Their Works   2.2.1 The Life of the Anchoress   - Reading: Carson-Newman College: Dr. L. Kip Wheeler’s “Literary Terms and Definitions”: “Anchorite,” “Anchoress,” and “Mystics”; University of Rochester Libraries’ TEAMS: Robert Hasenfratz’s, ed., version of Ancrene Wisse Links: Carson-Newman College: Dr. L. Kip Wheeler’s “Literary Terms and Definitions”: “Anchorite,” “Anchoress,” (HTML)and “Mystics” (HTML); University of Rochester Libraries’ TEAMS: Robert Hasenfratz’s, ed., version of Ancrene Wisse (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the definitions of “mystics,” “anchorite,” and “anchoress” linked here.  You will need to scroll down the webpage until you reach the definition for each.  After you have familiarized yourself with these definitions, please read Ancrene Wisse, edited by Robert Hasenfratz.
 
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  • Lecture: iTunes U: Westminster Theological Seminary: Dr. Carl Trueman’s “Medieval Church 8”: “Mysticism” Link: Westminster Theological Seminary: Dr. Carl Trueman’s “Medieval Church 8”: “Mysticism” (iTunes U)
     
    Instructions: Please listen to the entire lecture for a discussion of mysticism in the early Church.
     
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2.2.2 Julian of Norwich   - Reading: New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia entry on “Julian of Norwich”; Christian Classics Ethereal Library’s version of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love: “Chapters 1-3 Revelations of Divine Love” Links: New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia entry on“Julian of Norwich” (HTML); Christian Classics Ethereal Library’s version Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love: “Chapters 1-3 Revelations of Divine Love”(HTML)
 
Also available in:
eText format on the Kindle ($0.99)
ePub format on Google Books
 
Instructions: Please read the introductory information from the Catholic Encyclopedia for more about Julian of Norwich’s role as a mystical writer.  Then, read the entire text of Norwich’s “Chapters 1-3 Revelations of Divine Love.”  To access these chapters, click the link in the table of contents to Chapter 1, and continue to click “next” to move on to each chapter that follows.
 
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2.2.2.1 Her Presentation of Day-to-Day Life   - Reading: Gloriana’s Court: Dr. Elizabeth G. Melillo’s “Julian of Norwich” Link: Gloriana’s Court: Dr. Elizabeth G. Melillo’s “Julian of Norwich”(PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire short piece on Julian of Norwich for more about her daily life as a nun.
 
Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Dr. Elizabeth G. Melillo, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

2.2.2.2 Independence and Physical Separation from the Church   - Reading: University of Southern California: Monastic Matrix’s version of Margot H. King’s “Julian of Norwich: A Saint for the Nineties” Link: University of Southern California: Monastic Matrix’s version of Margot H. King’s "Julian of Norwich: A Saint for the Nineties" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the entire critical piece linked here.
 
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2.2.2.3 A Hermit’s Life: Reclusiveness or Enclosure?   - Reading: UMILITA.net’s version of Equally in God’s Image: Women in the Middle Ages: Elizabeth Robertson’s “An Anchorhold of Her Own: Female Anchoritic Literature in Thirteenth-Century England” Link: UMILITA.net’s version of Equally in God’s Image: Women in the Middle Ages:Elizabeth Robertson’s "An Anchorhold of Her Own: Female Anchoritic Literature in Thirteenth-Century England" (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the entire essay titled “An Anchorhold of Her Own” linked here.  
 
Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Julia Bolton Holloway, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

2.2.2.4 Conceptualization of Love   - Reading: Gloriana’s Court: Dr. Elizabeth G. Melillo’s “Mystics in Love” Link: Gloriana’s Court: Dr. Elizabeth G. Melillo’s “Mystics in Love” (PDF)
   
Instructions: Please read the entire essay linked here for a discussion of Christian spirituality and the mystics’ experience with love.
   
Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Dr. Elizabeth G. Melillo, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

2.2.2.5 Maternal Figurations of God   - Reading: Internet Archive: Thomas L. Long’s “Julian of Norwich's ‘Christ as Mother’ and Medieval Constructions of Gender" Lecture; San Francisco State University Medieval Forum: Jennifer A. Hudson’s “‘God our Mother’: The Feminine Cosmology of Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen” Link: Internet Archive: Thomas L. Long’s "Julian of Norwich's ‘Christ as Mother’ and Medieval Constructions of Gender" Lecture (HTML); San Francisco State University Medieval Forum: Jennifer A. Hudson’s “‘God our Mother’: The Feminine Cosmology of Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire lecture titled “Julian of Norwich’s ‘Christ as Mother’ and Medieval Constructions of Gender” and then Hudson’s essay on Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen.
 
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2.2.2.6 Matters of Style: Repetition, Cyclicality, and Imagery   - Reading: University of Rochester Libraries’ TEAMS: Georgia Ronan Crampton’s, ed., The Shewings of Julian of Norwich: Introduction Link: University of Rochester Libraries’ TEAMS: Georgia Ronan Crampton’s, ed., The Shewings of Julian of Norwich: Introduction (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire introduction to The Shewings of Julian of Norwich, edited by Georgia Ronan Crampton.  As you read, please focus on the stylistic devices in the text.
 
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2.2.3 Margery Kempe   - Reading: University of Rochester Libraries’ TEAMS: Lynn Staley’s, ed., The Book of Margery Kempe: “Book I and Book II” Link: University of Rochester Libraries’ TEAMS: Lynn Staley’s, ed., TheBook of Margery Kempe: “Book I and Book II” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of Book I and Book II.  To access Part II of Book I, as well as Book II, you must click on the hyperlinks at the end of each webpage to continue on.
 
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  • Web Media: UMILITA.net’s “Conversation between Julian and Margery” Link: UMILITA.net’s “Conversation between Julian and Margery

     
    Instructions: Listen to the reading of this essay in its entirety.  
     
    Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Julia Bolton Holloway, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

2.2.3.1 Kempe’s Self-Presentation: Wife, Mother, and Mystic   - Reading: Gloriana’s Court’s “Margery Kempe” Link: Gloriana’s Court’s  “Margery Kempe” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the entire introductory essay linked here.
 
Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Dr. Elizabeth G. Melillo, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

2.2.3.2 Margery’s Unique Relationship with Her Husband   - Reading: Internet Archive’s version of Claire F. Brunetti’s “Songs of Silence: The Affection for Bride and Body in the Rhetoric of Bernard of Clairvaux, Margery Kempe, and Teresa of Jesus”: “Chapter 2: Sounds of Subversion” Link: Internet Archive’s version of Claire F. Brunetti’s “Songs of Silence: The Affection for Bride and Body in the Rhetoric of Bernard of Clairvaux, Margery Kempe, and Teresa of Jesus”: “Chapter 2: Sounds of Subversion” (HTML)
   
Instructions: Scroll down the webpage until you find the beginning of Chapter 2; then read the entirety of Chapter 2, titled “Sounds of Subversion: Margery Kempe’s Unorthodox Weeping.”  
 
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2.2.3.3 Working outside the Abbey: Kempe’s Travels, Public Voice, and Reception   - Reading: Internet Archive’s version of Dean Lee Evans’s “Margery Kempe: A Brief History of Her Life” Link: Internet Archive’s version of Dean Lee Evans’s “Margery Kempe: A Brief History of Her Life” (HTML)
    
Instructions: Please read this short introduction to Kempe’s life.  While reading, please consider the public reaction to Kempe’s life, including the accusations of heresy brought against her.

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2.2.3.4 Conceptualization of Scripture and Theology   - Reading: College of the Holy Cross’s “Mapping Margery Kempe”: “Introduction” Link: College of the Holy Cross’s “Mapping Margery Kempe”: “Introduction” (HTML)
    
Instructions: Read the brief essay for more about Kempe’s concept of worship.  Please pay close attention to the discussion of Kempe’s text as a rebellion against male theological authority.
    
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2.2.3.5 Illiteracy, Dictation, and the Questions of Authorship   - Reading: University of California’s eScholarship: Julian Yates’s “Mystic Self: Margery Kempe and the Mirror of Narrative” Link: University of California’s eScholarship: Julian Yates’s “Mystic Self: Margery Kempe and the Mirror of Narrative”(HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire critical essay for a discussion of the question of authorship in “The Book of Margery Kempe,” especially in reference to Kempe’s own questionable literacy.
 
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2.2.3.6 “The Book of Margery Kempe” as an Early Autobiography: Questions of Genre and Selfhood   - Reading: University of Rochester Libraries’ TEAMS: Lynn Staley’s, ed., The Book of Margery Kempe: Introduction Link: University of Rochester TEAMS: Lynn Staley’s, ed., The Book of Margery Kempe: Introduction (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this short introduction to the text for an idea of the authorship, genre, and autobiography in The Book of Margery Kempe.
 
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2.2.3.7 Matters of Style and Form   - Reading: University of Southern California: Monastic Matrix’s version of Karma Lochrie’s “Margery Kempe and the Rhetoric of Laughter” Link: University of Southern California: Monastic Matrix’s version of Karma Lochrie’s "Margery Kempe and the Rhetoric of Laughter" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the entire critical essay linked here for a review of Kempe’s use of style and forms in her narrative.
         
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2.2.4 Affective Piety and Dissolution of the Self   - Reading: California Polytechnic State University: Dr. Debora B. Schwartz’s "The Human Side of God I: Women Mystics" Link: California Polytechnic State University: Dr. Debora B. Schwartz’s "The Human Side of God I: Women Mystics" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this review of female mystics, which includes a discussion of affective piety.  
 
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2.2.5 Catherine of Siena and the Text as Body   - Reading: New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia entry on “Catherine of Siena”; Catherine of Siena’s Letters of Catherine Benincasa Links: New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia entry on"Catherine of Siena" (HTML); Catherine of Siena’s Letters of Catherine Benincasa” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this short encyclopedia entry on
Catherine of Siena for an introduction to her life.  Then, read her
letters, in particular: “To Sister Eugenia, Her Niece at the Convent
of Saint Agnes of Montepulciano,” “To Nanna, Daughter of Benincasa a
Little Maid, Her Niece in Florence,” and “To Brother William of
England of the Hermit of Brothers of St. Augustine.”  As you read,
please focus on Catherine of Sienna’s mentions of the body.   

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2.2.6 Figurations of God as Lover or Courtier   - Reading: Project Gutenberg’s version of Catherine of Siena’s Letters of Catherine Benincasa Links: Project Gutenberg’s version of Catherine of Siena’s Letters of Catherine Benincasa (HTML)

 Instructions: From Catherine of Siena’s *Letters*, please read the
following letters: “To Benincasa her Brother When He Was in
Florence,” “To Monna Alessa Dei Saracini,” and “To Brother Matteo Di
Francesco Tolomei of the Order of the Preachers.”  As you read,
please concentrate on Catherine’s depiction of God as a lover.    

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2.3 Female Hagiography   2.3.1 What Is Hagiography?   - Reading: Carson-Newman College: Dr. L. Kip Wheeler’s “Literary Terms and Definitions”: “Hagiography” Link: Carson-Newman College: Dr. L. Kip Wheeler’s “Literary Terms and Definitions”: “Hagiography” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the definition of “hagiography” linked here.
 
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2.3.2 Hagiography as a Means to Represent Women in Different Modes   - Reading: University of Southern California: Monastic Matrix’s version of Jo Ann McNamara’s “The Ordeal of Community: Hagiography and Discipline in Merovingian Convents” Link: University of Southern California: Monastic Matrix’s version of Jo Ann McNamara’s "The Ordeal of Community: Hagiography and Discipline in Merovingian Convents" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the entire article linked here for a discussion of the importance of hagiography in shaping portrayals of medieval women.
 
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2.3.3 The Figure of Thecla: Romance, Adventure, and Rejection of the Conventional Roles of Wife and Mother   - Reading: New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia entry on “Sts. Thecla”; Global Ministries’ version of excerpts from “The Acts of Paul and Thecla” Links: New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia entry on“Sts. Thecla” (HTML); Global Ministries’ version of excerpts from “The Acts of Paul and Thecla” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on “Sts. Thecla” for background information about Saint Thecla’s role in the Medieval Church.  Then, read the selections from the “The Acts of Paul and Thecla” linked here, which includes Chapter 1-Chapter 11 of the Thecla narrative.  
 
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2.3.4 Perpetua, Martyrdom, and Defiance   - Reading: New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia entry on “Sts. Felicitas and Perpetua”; Fordham University’s Internet Medieval History Sourcebook: W.H. Shewring’s translation of excerpts from “The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity” Link: New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia entry on“Sts. Felicitas and Perpetua” (HTML); Fordham University’s Internet Medieval History Sourcebook: W.H. Shewring’s translation of excerpts from "The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the excerpts from “The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity,” as well as the encyclopedia entry on the two female saints.
 
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2.3.5 Conceptualizations of and Qualifications for Female Sainthood   - Reading: Clark College: Professor Anita Fisher’s “Women and Religion in the Middle Ages” Link: Clark College: Professor Anita Fisher’s “Women and Religion in the Middle Ages”(HTML)
 
Instructions: To access the text, click on the hyperlink for “Women and Religion in the Middle Ages” in the right column titled “Lecture Texts.”  You may choose either the Word or PDF format.  Read the entire lecture for a discussion of female sainthood, as well as a thorough review of women’s role in the medieval Church.  
 
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