Thieves and Carnivals: Gender in German Dominican Literature of the Fourteenth Century

  • Ulrike Wiethaus
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


As the Latin meaning of vernaculus cited above indicates, languages denote not only a sense of place, but also of relations of power.1 These relations include gender and thus gender-specific usage of language as a category of economic, cultural, and social discrimination.2 In terms of medieval literacy, the rise of vernacular religious literacy and literatures has often been traced to the contributions of female Christian authors.3 Barred from the study of Latin at universities and often also in monasteries, religious women took refuge in writing in their mother tongues and produced works of remarkable originality and depth.4 Male-authored spiritual writings in the vernacular followed suit with some delay and were frequently written for an often explicitly female religious audience.5


Pastoral Care Language Game Fourteenth Century Religious Woman Dominican Order 
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  1. 1.
    The case has been made most recently by Elizabeth Hill Boone and Walter D. Mignolo, eds., Writing Without Words: Alternative Literacies in Mesoamerica and the Andes (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  2. Walter Mignolo, “Globalization, Civilization Processes, and the Relocation of Languages and Cultures,” in Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, eds., The Cultures of Globalization (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), pp. 32–54.Google Scholar
  3. 16.
    For a recent critical analysis, see Julie B. Miller, “Eroticized Violence in Medieval Women’s Mystical Literature: A Call for a Feminist Critique,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 15:2 (1999): 25–50.Google Scholar
  4. 17.
    On the endorsement of misogynist and anti-Judaic violence in Latin devotional texts, see Thomas H. Bestul, Texts of the Passion: Latin Devotional Literature and Medieval Society (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  5. 35.
    Julius Schwietering, “Zur Autorschaft von SeusesVita,” in Altdeutsche und altniederländische Mystik, ed. Kurt Ruh (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1964), pp. 309–23.Google Scholar
  6. 39.
    On the symbolism of these numbers, see Ernst Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (New York: Harper & Row, 1953), pp. 503–505.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Duncan Robertson, and Nancy Bradley Warren 2002

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  • Ulrike Wiethaus

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