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Authorizing Female Piety

Watt, D (2010) Authorizing Female Piety In: The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in English. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 240 - 255. ISBN 0199229120

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Abstract

This essay explores aspects of female religious authority in England from the Anglo-Saxon period until the end of the Middle Ages. It addresses questions of theory and methodology and offer new analyses of some familiar medieval women visionaries. One key problem in any consideration of women and piety that extends across several hundred years is the imposition of a teleology or narrative of decline. Aristocratic religious women certainly appeared to have more power in the period before the Norman Conquest. Another difficulty is the absence of a continuous tradition of women’s religious writing. How familiar were the writers of English devotional texts by, for, or about women in the later Middle Ages with earlier models of female piety and their visions and writings? In exploring and negotiating these issues, this essay will look at a range of pious women from different periods, starting with the narratives of holy women and nuns in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History (especially the nuns of Barking, Etheldreda or ᴁthelthryth, and Hild), moving on to Christina of Markyate in the twelfth century, and finishing with Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, and the anonymous visionary (probably recluse) of Winchester responsible for the early fifteenth-century ‘Revelation of Purgatory’. Important themes to be explored include the centrality of visions of dying, death and the afterlife, and their significance in the authorizing of female piety and in the construction of communities of devout women

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Literary Criticism
Related URLs:
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences > English and Languages > English
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2012 11:16
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2013 19:34
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/712451

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