Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Gendered Lessons: Advice Literature for Holy Women in the Twelfth Century
by Diener, Laura Michele, Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2008, 243; 10630882
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation I examine the impact of gender on the spirituality of religious women. I consider a number of texts dating from approximately 1080–1200 written specifically for women that I refer to as religious advice literature, or prescriptive literature. By advice literature, I refer to a variety of genres including letters, sermons, saints' lives, and visionary texts. Religious men such as Peter Abelard, Osbert of Clare, Goscelin of St. Bertin, and Conrad of Hirsau designed these prescriptive texts to address what they perceived as the issues that directly affected the lives of women. These issues included the preservation of sexual purity and the practice of monastic meditation. I argue that they described traditional metaphors for monastic activity in gendered language. This technique served to make their texts relevant to the lives of religious women. I also consider the potential reactions of female readers. To this end, I consider the writings of female authors such as the Heloise, abbess of the Paraclete in France and Hildegard von Bingen, German abbess and renowned visionary. I also examine the writings of men that were influenced by religious women such as the Life of Christina of Markyate and the Second Life of Robert of Arbrissal . While there are far fewer examples of advice literature written by women, those that have survived reveal a wealth of information and allow us to gauge the reactions of women to monastic living.

These prescriptive texts reveal that religious men and women rarely agreed about the nature of the female sex and in particular its capacity for learning and monastic living. They also debated extensively about the site of gender difference and the relationship between female physicality and spirituality. I explore these questions from two perspectives—the men who wrote for religious women and the women who read their works and occasionally wrote their own responses.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hanawalt, Barbara
Commitee: Kiser, Lisa, Lynch, Joseph
School: The Ohio State University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Medieval history
Keywords: Anchoress, Heloise, Medieval, Monastery, Nuns, Hildegard von Bingen, Hildegard of Bingen
Publication Number: 10630882
ISBN: 978-0-355-01210-1
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