The Literature of Spiritual Formation for Women in France and England, 1080 to 1180

  • Elisabeth Bos
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

This chapter explores the extensive literature of spiritual instruction for religious women produced in France and England from the time of St. Anselm to that of Peter of Blois. It considers the question of whether or not spiritual advice for women differed from that provided to men. The chapter argues that far from simply exhorting religious women to maintain an existing state of virginity, such literature encouraged women to pursue interior growth in self-discipline and virtue. Virginity was sometimes used to refer more to religious chastity than to physical integrity. There is a close parallel here with the Speculum virginum, although no composition comparable in scale ever circulated in England or France during the twelfth century. There are certainly major differences between the imagery employed for writings addressed to women and imagery directed to men. The underlying spiritual principles, however, were the same.

Keywords

Dust Europe Mold Expense Smoke 

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Notes

  1. 4.
    Jean Leclercq, “Does St Bernard Have a Specific Message for Nuns?” in Medieval Religious Women: Distant Echoes ed. J. A. Nichols and L. T. Shank (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1987), pp. 276–77. Alcuin Blamires argues that Marbod of Rennes held similar views to BernardGoogle Scholar
  2. Jean Leclercq, The Case for Women in Medieval Culture (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 20.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Barbara Newman, “Flaws in the Golden Bowl: Gender and Spiritual Formation in the Twelfth Century,” Traditio 45 (1989/90): 113Google Scholar
  4. Barbara Newman, reprinted in her volume of essays, From Virile Woman to Woman Christ (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995), p. 21.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Marina Warner, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (London: Picador, 1990), pp. 77–78.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Jane T. Schulenburg, “The Heroics of Virginity: Brides of Christ and Sacrificial Mutilation,” in Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives, ed. M. B. Rose (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1986), pp. 29–72.Google Scholar
  7. 39.
    Herbert E.J. Cowdrey discusses Matilda’s desire to enter a convent, in Gregory VII, 1073–1085 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), p. 624. Matilda’s care for Anselm’s situation in exile is attested to by her letter of intercession on his behalf to Pope Paschal II, Letter 350, SAGO 5: 289–90.Google Scholar
  8. 45.
    Shulamith Shahar, The Fourth Estate: A History of Women in the Middle Ages, trans. C. Galai (London: Methuen, 1983), p. 95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Constant J. Mews 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Bos

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