Introduction

  • Constant J. Mews
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

These words of the Psalmist provide a particularly appropriate way to begin thinking about the Speculum virginum [Mirror of Virgins]. Tradi-tionally interpreted as an injunction to the Church to prepare itself as a Bride to meet the Son of God, they had a particular resonance for women who sought to dedicate themselves to the religious life. The perfect soul was understood as a supremely beautiful woman who leaves her father’s house for her spiritual beloved. To a modern mind, this might seem a very alien way of imagining spiritual life. The injunction implies that God is male and that the perfect woman is fully obedient to her lover.Yet these words can also be heard as a “wake-up call,” urging rejection of worldly security and attentiveness to the voice of the Beloved. This is the way they were understood within a medieval religious environment.

Keywords

Europe Dition Defend Lost Berman 

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Notes

  1. 5.
    Cindy L. Carlson and Angela Lane Weisl, “Introduction,” in Constructions of Widowhood and Virginity in the Middle Ages, ed. Carlson and Weisl, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p. 5.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    Eleanor Greenhill, Die Stellung der Handschrift British Museum Arundel 44 in der Überlieferung des Speculum virginum, Mitteilungen des Grabmann Instituts der Universität München 10 (Munich: Max HueberVerlag, 1966).Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    Jean Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture, trans. Catherine Misrahi (New York: Fordham University Press, 1961), p. 60Google Scholar
  4. Jean Leclercq, first published as L’Amour des lettres et le désir de Dieu. Initiation aux auteurs monastiques du moyen âge (Paris: Seuil, 1957).Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    Herbert Grundmann, Religious Movements in the Middle Ages: The Historical Links between Heresy, the Mendicant Orders, and the Women’s Religious Movement in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Century, with the Historical Foundations of German Mysticism, trans. Steven Rowan (Notre-Dame, IN: University of Notre-Dame Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  6. 16.
    For an excellent collection of recent studies, see Juliette Dor, Lesley Johnson and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, eds., New Trends in Feminine Spirituality: The Holy Women of Liège and Their Impact (Turnhout: Brepols, 1999).Google Scholar
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    See the different chapters in David Townsend and Andrew Taylor, eds., The Tongue of the Fathers: Gender and Ideology in Twelfth-Century Latin (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998).Google Scholar
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    Penelope Johnson, “The Cloistering of Medieval Nuns: Release or Repression, Reality or Fantasy” in Gendered Domains: Rethinking Public and Private in Women’s History ed. Dorothy O. Helly and Susan M. Reverby (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), pp. 27–39; see also chapter 3 by Julie Hotchin below.Google Scholar
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    Einar Mar Jonsson, Le Miroir: Naissance d’un genre littéraire (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1995).Google Scholar
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    Constant J. Mews, The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard: Perceptions of Dialogue in Twelfth-Century France (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999).Google Scholar
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    Jeffrey Hamburger, Nuns as Artists:The Visual Culture of a Medieval Convent (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)Google Scholar
  14. Jeffrey Hamburger, The Visual and the Visionary: Art and Female Spirituality in Late Medieval Germany (New York: Zone Books, 1998).Google Scholar

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© Constant J. Mews 2001

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  • Constant J. Mews

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