Hadewijch of Antwerp
Hadewijch of Antwerp fl. mid-thirteenth century-
Dutch poet and mystic.
Sometimes referred to as the Brabant mystic, Hadewijch of Antwerp is regarded as an influential and formative figure in Dutch literature. Associated with the medieval movement known as Minnemystiek (“love mysticism”), Hadewijch is thought to have been a beguine—a devout woman of noble birth who attended to the spiritual life of her thirteenth-century community. Love, or Minne as she called it, is the central component of Hadewijch's poetry, and indeed of all her collected works, including her religious Visioenen (Visions, mid-thirteenth century). Drawn from the traditional courtly love poetry of the medieval troubadours, Minne was originally used to express the perpetual longing for an unattainable, worldly love. Having mastered the form and lyrical techniques of such verse, Hadewijch adapted its conventions and central conceit to her religious thought, spiritualizing Minne by associating it with the eternal love of God, literally depicting God experienced directly as Love. Not systematic in and of itself, her work and thought demonstrated a considerable influence on the spiritual system of fourteenth-century mystic Jan van Ruysbroeck, among others. Taken as a whole, her visionary prose and innovative lyric poetry are considered some of the earliest and most outstanding in the Middle Dutch vernacular.
Information about Hadewijch's life, save that which can be surmised from her writings, is completely lacking. Tradition suggests that she was born in Antwerp, sometime in the early years of the thirteenth century. Educated and articulate, probably of an aristocratic family, Hadewijch could read Latin, French, and Provençal, in addition to Dutch. Her knowledge of Holy Scripture was formidable and her awareness of such writers as Saint Augustine, William of Saint Thierry, Richard of St. Victor, Bernard of Clairvaux, and others of the mystical tradition is borne out by her own work. Hadewijch lived in either Antwerp or possibly Brussels, and wrote in the language of thirteenth-century Brabant, an independent duchy (now northern Belgium and southern Netherlands). She recorded her sixth mystical vision as occurring when she was nineteen, while she experienced the first of her fourteen Visions years before she was old enough to understand their symbolic and spiritual significance. Hadewijch probably entered a beguinage while still a young woman. Records of these religious organizations show them to be small, self-sustaining communities of women from the noble laity devoted to Christian good works, prayer, and contemplation.
Beguinages had begun to appear in the Low Countries during the second half of the twelfth century. Accepted by Pope Honorius III in 1216 and widespread in Europe, the movement was officially condemned in 1310 due to its independence from ecclesiastical authority. In orientation similar to nuns, beguines did not adopt the monastic life, followed no official organizing principles, and swore no solemn vows; instead, in the words of critic Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff, “beguines strove to live in the world without being of it,” adopting a life of poverty and focusing on charitable deeds. Internal evidence, particularly that of her “Letter 15,” suggests that Hadewijch was probably the spiritual leader of her particular community (although some recent scholars have disputed this, and even questioned her status as a beguine.) In any case, Hadewijch's involvement in the spiritual life of the southern Netherlands is unquestioned. Other evidence hints at her possibly being linked to heretical movements or individuals, and perhaps being persecuted for her beliefs and actions. Portions of her thirty-one Brieven (Letters, mid-thirteenth century) suggest she may have been exiled, imprisoned, or otherwise separated from her cherished sisters against her will. (“Letter 25” expresses her hope that one day she will be reunited with them.) Most scholars believe that Hadewijch was a beguine and spent the majority of her career devoting herself to Christian charity, including care of the elderly, ill, and impoverished—activities she exhorted her fellow beguines to engage in as well. Meanwhile she composed a noteworthy and influential collection of poetry and prose, probably over the course of the years 1220 to 1240, or possibly slightly later. The date of Hadewijch's death is unknown, although a terminal point in the early second half of the thirteenth century is generally accepted by scholars.
Hadewijch's body of work is contained in three complete manuscripts that survive from the late fourteenth century, as well as in a few fragments, including one dating from about 1500. The overarching influence on her writing is scriptural. Love is its central theme, and both her poetry and prose are saturated with love motifs, expressed in terms of Minne, a feminine noun in the Dutch language that connotes the concepts of Divine Love or Lady Love, depending on context. Although the precise chronology of Hadewijch's works has proved difficult to establish, scholars accept her admission that she experienced several religious visions while still quite young. Most commentators acknowledge, nevertheless, that she likely recorded the content of these mystical experiences years later, after reaching maturity and perfecting her literary skills. In “Vision 1,” considered a symbolic synthesis of her spiritual doctrine, an angel leads Hadewijch past seven trees (symbolizing the chief Christian virtues) before leaving her in the presence of Christ, who then directs her to embrace these virtues and accept the sufferings of human life through love before uniting with the Divine. Christ appears in several of the subsequent Visions, addressing her again in “Vision 8.” The tenth through twelfth Visions draw heavily on themes and imagery of the Apocalypse from the biblical revelation of St. John. “Vision 5” describes an almost bodily union with the Divine, while “Vision 9” conjoins Hadewijch's theme of love with that of Redene (“reason”). In “Vision 13,” a six-winged manifestation of God appears to Hadewijch, after discussing the powers of faith and humility, literally engulfs her. Included with the Visions, “The List of the Perfect” enumerates the saints and contemporary individuals whom Hadewijch most admired: Origen, Augustine, and Isidore of Seville.
Hadewijch addressed her Letters to a young beguine whom she sought to inform on the primary subjects of faith. Common themes in these epistles include the Holy Trinity, self-knowledge, grace, and of course, God's love for humanity. Several of the Letters are more properly short theological treatises, including “Letter 15,” a spiritual allegory concerned with a holy pilgrimage, or “Letter 20”—devoted to “the twelve unspeakable hours of love”—which chronicles the soul's mystical progress toward God. Of her poetic works, Hadewijch's forty-five Strofische Gedichten (Poems in Stanzas, mid-thirteenth century) represent her creation of a new lyric genre by skillfully adapting the tropes of courtly love poetry to her deeply spiritual mode of expression. In her stanzaic verse Hadewijch glorifies the duties and sufferings of an ecstatic lover in search of union with God. Rather than projecting herself as the bride of Christ, a common construct of medieval mystical writings by women, Hadewijch instead evoked the imagery of a doughty knight journeying through the wilderness of love. Paralleling the theme of the questing knight-errant in romantic service to an unattainable lady, the speaker of Hadewijch's Strofische Gedichten evokes her soul's longing to join with God through love. Throughout her poetry, Hadewijch described Minne as a multifaceted concept, one that embraces unrequited desire, confusion, and estrangement, as well as the joy of divine union. Broadly representative of the Strofische Gedichten, “Poem 6” begins with a seasonal allusion, in this case to spring, an exploration of love as a struggle of conquest and submission, a movement toward the intensification of feeling, and a countermotif of alienation from the soul's desired end, Divine Love. Another of the works, also rich in metaphor and paradox, “Poem 28” concentrates on the speaker's mad and passionate love for God and highlights the rewards of Christian suffering. Hadewijch's Mengeldichten (Poems in Couplets, mid-thirteenth century) lack the stanzaic structure of her other lyrics but are instead composed as a series of rhyming couplets. (Most scholars caution that only the first sixteen of the Mengeldichten contained in extant manuscripts can be authoritatively attributed to Hadewijch. The latter portion of the collection, comprising poems 17 to 29, is generally ascribed to another, unknown author, possibly a member of her group of beguines and usually designated as “Hadewijch II.”) Terse and aphoristic, as opposed to the more lyrically evocative Strofische Gedichten, the Mengeldichten, like Hadewijch's Letters, appear to have been addressed to the young beguines of her community. While Minne remains the central concern of the Mengeldichten, a number of related themes are developed in individual poems. For example, “Mengeldicht 14” describes the virtue of humility, while “Mengeldicht 16” is an evocation of the soul as it exists in divine harmony with the Holy Trinity.
Hadewijch's literary and theological significance was first recognized in the fourteenth century by such figures as Jan van Ruysbroeck and Jan van Leeuwen, who praised her writing and the majestic qualities of her spiritual vision and faith in Divine Love. In the century following her death, Hadewijch's works also became known outside of the Low Countries, with complete translations of her Letters appearing in High German, although portions of these have since been lost. Her influence on the German mystic and theologian Meister Eckhart (whose more penetrative, introspective mysticism nevertheless contrasts with hers) has likewise suggested the spread of her thought in the late medieval period. Although her poetry and prose continued to be inscribed in fifteenth-century rapiaria (early modern anthologies of writing and thought), by the sixteenth century Hadewijch had fallen into obscurity. Her writings were rediscovered in 1838 by medievalists who began to study manuscripts in possession of the Royal Library of Brussels. The first modern critical editions of her works were edited by Jozef Van Mierlo and published between 1924 and 1952. Since then, translations of her poetry and prose have appeared in English, German, French, and Italian, as well as modern Dutch.
In the contemporary period, critical attention to Hadewijch's writings has expanded rapidly. Among several areas of interest, a number of late twentieth-century scholars have highlighted the orientation of Hadewijch's writing toward a female audience, and have analyzed her poetic evocation of gender and the body, including her occasional use of sexualized images to describe an ecstatic union with God. Indeed, feminist-oriented scholarship has proven to be one of the most compelling fields of modern Hadewijch study, especially in regard to her somewhat enigmatic Visions. Her other prose works, the Letters, have been lauded for their formal artistry and clarity of expression, while her verse has been deemed crucial to the development of Dutch vernacular writing. Theodoor Weevers (1960) writes, “Hadewijch ranks with the earlier Dante … as one of the great masters who, towards the close of the era of courtly chivalry, transformed the troubadour lyric with its rigidly circumscribed conventions into a form capable of expressing the highest aspirations of the human soul.” Summarizing generally laudatory modern perceptions, Ria Vanderauwera (1984) regards Hadewijch “as one of the most gifted literary geniuses of her period” who holds a prominent place in the canon of Dutch literature.
Brieven [Letters] (letters) mid-thirteenth century
Mengeldichten [Poems in Couplets] (poetry) mid-thirteenth century
Strofische Gedichten [Poems in Stanzas] (poetry) mid-thirteenth century
Visioenen [Visions] (prose) mid-thirteenth century
Hadewijch: Strofische Gedichten (edited by J. Van Mierlo) 1924
De Visioenen van Hadewijch (edited by J. Van Mierlo) 1925
Hadewijch: Brieven (edited by J. Van Mierlo) 1947
Hadewijch: Mengeldichten (edited by J. Van Mierlo) 1952
Hadewijch: The Complete Works (translated by Mother Columba Hart, O.S.B.) 1980
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SOURCE: Axters, Stephanus. “Before Ruysbroeck.” In The Spirituality of the Old Low Countries, translated by Donald Attwater, pp. 9-28. London: Blackfriars Publications, 1954.
[In the following excerpt, Axters sums up Hadewijch's mystical and literary sensibility, arguing that she “spiritualized courtly love” in the thirteenth century.]
The identification of the mystic called Hadewijch has been a nightmare to philologists for nearly a century. One of the latest hypotheses is that of Father J. van Mierlo, S.J., who seeks to identify her with a béguine of Nivelles named Helwig of Saint Cyr, who was buried at the abbey of Villers in 1269. However that may be, it seems to be established that Hadewijch was a béguine, and all her work suggests that she lived during the thirteenth century, probably about the middle. The writings of this person who is rather hard to identify include accounts of visions, letters, a number of strophic verses, and sixteen poems in rimes plates1. In them she takes her idea of love from the Cistercians, particularly from Beatrice of Nazareth, and gives it an unquestionably metaphysical sense.
The key to Hadewijch's spirituality is given in a phrase of one of her letters—“Love is all”. For her the inner life consists wholly of an ascent, a great endeavour, towards love. Love is the attribute of God. God is love. And the...
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SOURCE: Weevers, Theodoor. “The Netherlands in Medieval Literature.” In Poetry of the Netherlands in its European Context 1170-1930, pp. 7-45. London: The Athlone Press, 1960.
[In the following excerpt, Weevers concentrates on Hadewijch's style and major poetic influences: Henric van Veldeke, Provençal troubadours, Rhineland Minnesingers, and Latin devotional verse.]
[T]he appearance of the lyrical genius Hadewijch in the first half of the thirteenth century well-nigh compels us to assume a continuation of the Dutch courtly lyric in the period after 1180. Such consummate mastery as hers is inexplicable but for the existence of a native tradition of minnesanc. The apparently surprising fact that her work alone survived the anti-courtly reaction of the later thirteenth century is sufficiently explained by its religious content.
Hadewijch ranks with the earlier Dante and the other poets of the dolce stil novo as one of the great masters who, towards the close of the era of courtly chivalry, transformed the troubadour lyric with its rigidly circumscribed conventions into a form capable of expressing the highest aspirations of the human soul. Already in the finest songs of Jaufré Rudel and Bernart de Ventadorn one feels the breath of a passion too great for its terrestrial object; the latter's sigh: ‘Ai las! com mor de cossirar!’ seems to strain the bounds of...
(The entire section is 5007 words.)
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SOURCE: Hart, Mother Columba. Introduction to Hadewijch: The Complete Works, translated by Mother Columba Hart, O.S.B., pp. 1-42. New York: Paulist Press, 1980.
[In the following excerpt, Hart surveys the life of Hadewijch, highlighting significant themes and concepts in her letters, stanzaic poetry, and mystical visions.]
In the early thirteenth century the religious currents stirring in western Europe showed particular vitality throughout the Low Countries. In this new and strong movement of devotion, which sought a return to the pure spirit of the Gospel, both nuns and secular women took part. A number of women mystics gifted with ecstatic contemplation gained such respect that much information concerning them has been preserved in Latin “lives” written by contemporary authors and based in some cases—as in the lives of Saint Mary of Oignies (1177-1213) and Saint Lutgard of Aywières (1183-1246)—on close personal acquaintance between the writer and the subject of the biography.1 To this group of mystics Hadewijch belongs, but her life was never written. She and her works were known in the fourteenth century, especially in the houses of the Canons Regular of Windesheim and to the Carthusians of Diest. By the middle of the sixteenth century, however, her name and everything she wrote (partly, perhaps, because no “life” perpetuated her...
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SOURCE: Vanderauwera, Ria. “The Brabant Mystic: Hadewijch.” In Medieval Women Writers, edited by Katharina M. Wilson, pp. 186-203. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984.
[In the following excerpted introduction to her selected translation of Hadewijch's writing, Vanderauwera summarizes the content and critical history of Hadewijch's literary works, as well as her status as the representative Dutch mystic writer of the thirteenth century.]
Of Hadewijch, we know only her name, texts (poetry and prose), and a few scattered references. Nonetheless we recognize her as one of the foremost representatives of early minnemystiek, a brand of mysticism to which women made an especially impressive contribution in the thirteenth century. We possess three complete manuscripts of her works, parts of her work in a recently discovered codex, and a few smaller fragments.1 The three complete manuscripts contain thirty-one letters, forty-five stanzaic poems, fourteen visions, and twenty-nine poems mostly in rhyming couplets (one manuscript has only sixteen of them), of which thirteen were probably not by Hadewijch but by another woman of her environment. The significance of her work for Dutch literature lies in the facts that her stanzaic poetry belongs to the very few extant Middle Dutch love songs in the troubadour tradition of courtly love and that her prose, together with that of the Cistercian...
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SOURCE: Zum Brunn, Emilie, and Georgette Epiney-Burgard. “Hadewijch of Antwerp: Introduction.” In Women Mystics in Medieval Europe, translated by Sheila Hughes, pp. 97-139. New York: Paragon House, 1989.
[In the following excerpt, Zum Brunn and Epiney-Burgard relate what is known of Hadewijch's life and survey the spiritual themes of her written works.]
LIFE AND WORKS
After having been acclaimed and quoted in the fourteenth century by John Ruysbroeck and his disciple, John of Leeuwen,1 Hadewijch's works, of which only four manuscripts remain, were more or less entirely forgotten until they were rediscovered in the nineteenth century by medieval specialists, as well as by the great poet Maeterlinck.2 Her writings appeared in a critical edition in 1920, thanks to the arduous labors of J. Van Mierlo.3
In our own times, each year brings in such a harvest of studies, both literary and spiritual, that we can say that Hadewijch is much better known today than during her lifetime.4 On the other hand, the exterior facts of her life remain obscure for, unlike Beatrice, she did not find a biographer, doubtlessly because, being a Beguine, she lived outside the monastic milieu. Only one manuscript has preserved her name, together with a geographical indication: “Blessed Hadewijch of Antwerp.”
It is thought...
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SOURCE: de Vroom, Theresia. “Hadewijch van Antwerpen (c. 1250).” Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies 11, no. 2 (fall 1990): 4-10.
[In the following essay, de Vroom encapsulates Hadewijch's literary depiction of the theme of Minne (Love, or “the way in which the soul experiences its relation to God”).]
Hadewijch's works were both popular and influential. Translated from Diets (the middle-Netherlandic dialect in which she wrote), they survive in several medieval versions.1 The great Flemish mystic Jan van Ruysbroek (1293-1381) took some of his most important ideas from Hadewijch and passed his reverence for the “heylich glorieus wijf, Hadewijch” on to his followers. One of those followers, Jan van Leeuwen, praised Hadewijch as if she were equal to one of the evangelists:
Aldus spreekt ook een heilige, glorieuze vrouw die Hadewijch heet. Ze is een waarachtige lerares, want Hadewijchs boeken zijn zeker goed en geloofsgetrouw, uit God geboren en door Hem ingegeven. Want haar boeken zijn door Gods ogen gelezen en onderzocht. …2
(And so speaks the glorious woman called Hadewijch. She is a miraculous teacher, because Hadewijch's books are certainly true and faithful, born out of God and inspired by him. Because her books have been read and studied by God's eyes. …)...
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SOURCE: Milhaven, John Giles. “Hadewijch and the Mutuality of Love.” In Hadewijch and Her Sisters: Other Ways of Loving and Knowing, pp. 3-72. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.
[In the following excerpt, Milhaven evaluates Hadewijch as a theologian, comparing her views on divinity and her experience of God with those of Bernard of Clairvaux, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, and others.]
The theologian, Hadewijch, lived in a Beguinage somewhere in the Low Countries during the middle of the thirteenth century.1 Beguines were devout women largely of noble families, who lived in self-supporting community, and breaking with precedent, chose to live lives of apostolic poverty, contemplation, and care for the sick without taking vows as nuns (Hadewijch 1980b, p. 3). Hadewijch wrote, in the Dutch language of her time, letters, poetry and accounts of her religious, at times mystical, experience. They come to over three hundred pages in Mother Columba Hart's English translation. We know little of Hadewijch or her life. We have no contemporary account of her. Her own writing, though often personal and autobiographical, is vague and reticent on factual detail.
Hadewijch's work was read in some circles and had influence for a century or two. She affected John of Ruusbroec, influential mystical theologian of the fourteenth century, and his disciples. She influenced thus...
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SOURCE: Petroff, Elizabeth Alvilda. “Gender, Knowledge, and Power in Hadewijch's Strophische Gedichten.” In Body and Soul: Essays on Medieval Women and Mysticism, pp. 182-203. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.
[In the following essay, Petroff studies Hadewijch's representation of desire and gender reconciled through love in her Strofische Gedichten.]
Hadewijch's Strophische Gedichten1 is a collection of poems on the theme of Minne, or Lady Love. In these sophisticated and confident lyrics, the great Dutch mystic and poet re-creates some of the themes, images, and metrical forms of the Provençal love lyric to explore the experience of Minne. She is a very great poet:
[T]he gift for poetry she displays in the Poems in Stanzas can only be termed lyrical genius. … Her poems themselves are proof that she had mastered the troubadours' art. It has been said that just as Bernard of Clairvaux used the Song of Songs to express his own intimate and personal experience of God, Hadewijch used the poetry of courtly love to express the emotional tensions of the longing for God, showing an unfailing mastery of all its techniques: stanza structure, the tornada, meter, rhyme, assonance, concatenation, and figures of speech.2
Hadewijch wrote in Dutch and is thought to have lived in...
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SOURCE: Murk-Jansen, Saskia. “Hadewijch and Eckhart: Amor intellegere est.” In Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete, edited by Bernard McGinn, pp. 17-30. New York: Continuum, 1994.
[In the following essay, Murk-Jansen traces thematic affinities between Hadewijch's works and those of German theologian Meister Eckhart.]
Academics today may be forgiven for wondering why so little attention has been paid to the question of influence between Hadewijch and Eckhart, or at least to the possibility of common themes in their work. Hadewijch, after all, was writing around the middle of the thirteenth century in an area that was geographically and linguistically not very far removed from Eckhart's own, half a century or so later. The manuscripts of her works were known to ecclesiastic scholars in the fourteenth century although not very widely disseminated, certainly not compared for example to those of Marguerite Porete. Like Marguerite Porete, Hadewijch is thought to have been a Beguine, and the Beguines had particularly close links with the Dominicans, so there exists at least the possibility that Eckhart could have heard of her work from others within his order. Nevertheless, this whole field of inquiry has been left lying fallow. Why? Is this lack of attention by eminent Hadewijch scholars earlier this century because the evidence...
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SOURCE: Suydam, Mary A. “The Touch of Satisfaction: Visions and the Religious Experience According to Hadewijch of Antwerp.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 12, no. 2 (fall 1996): 5-27.
[In the following essay, Suydam offers a comparative analysis of Hadewijch's Visions, Letters and Mengeldichten using the tools of feminist criticism to discover the manner in which these mystical writings challenge the hierarchies and dichotomies of religious literature.]
Hadewijch of Antwerp, a thirteenth-century Dutch Beguine, was a gifted writer, poet, and mystic. She was one of the first authors to shape the Dutch language into written form.1 Her works, collected in five different manuscripts dating from the fourteenth century or later, comprise 31 letters (Brieven), 14 visions (Visioenen), and two collections of poetry, in stanzaic verse (Strofische Gedichten) and in rhymed verse (Mengeldichten).2 Her ideas were borrowed by Ruusbroec and possibly influenced Eckhart.3
A persistent challenge for scholars has been the interpretation and integration of Hadewijch's religious ideas throughout her very different literary works. Because there is no information about Hadewijch other than that contained in her works, it is impossible to determine the sequence in which she wrote the Visions, her two collections of...
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SOURCE: Murk-Jansen, Saskia M. “The Use of Gender and Gender-Related Imagery in Hadewijch.” In Gender and Text in the Later Middle Ages, edited by Jane Chance, pp. 52-68. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996.
[In the following essay, Murk-Jansen explores Hadewijch's use of gender reversal and gendered imagery to create a language of God oriented toward a female audience.]
Images are multivalent, and none more so than images of gender, which not only reflect a multiplicity of meanings to any one reader but also mean different things to men and women. Furthermore, gender-related images are not always primarily, or even at all, about gender, about the differing roles of women and men apparently reflected by the image.1 In this respect, Ricoeur's theory of imagery is a more satisfying explanation of the way in which gender images function than that put forward by those who see symbols and images as models of the world or society as they are, or models for the way they should be. Analysts who subscribe to this interpretation of images have analyzed the imagery in medieval texts for what it can reveal about the actual role of women in medieval society, about the authors' underlying conceptions of women, or about the author's subconscious desires concerning the role of women.2 Ricoeur, on the other hand, suggests that symbols give rise to thought, not that thought or...
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SOURCE: Madigan, Shawn. “Hadewijch (Thirteenth Century): I Am All Love's and Love Is All Mine.” In Mystics, Visionaries, and Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women's Spiritual Writings, edited by Shawn Madigan, C.S.J., pp. 166-90. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1998.
[In the following excerpt, Madigan introduces Hadewijch's love songs and provides background information regarding her status as a thirteenth-century beguine.]
Hadewijch probably lived in the thirteenth century, a century of many diverse movements. On the one hand, the papacy had reached a height of political power. On the other hand, the papal office had lost its influence as a spiritual and moral force. There was an increased desire for authentic religious experience among many of the clergy and laity. At the same time, there was an abundance of heretical groups as well. Scholastic theology with its Aristotelian reflections on faith dominated the university scene. A more experiential affective theology and spirituality flourished among other groups. A few sentences about each of these diverse strands may further the understanding of the age in which Hadewijch likely lived and wrote.1
The last pope of the twelfth century, Innocent III (1198-1216), brought the papal office to the summit of political power even as that office began its decline as a spiritual and moral force. The Decretals of Gratian had...
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SOURCE: Suydam, Mary. “‘Ever in Unrest’: Translating Hadewijch of Antwerp’s Mengeldichten.” Women’s Studies 28 (1999): 157-84.
[In the following essay, Suydam considers the problems inherent in translating medieval texts and contends that it is a mistake to assume that Hadewijch’s use of gendered pronouns was based on the gender of the noun referent.]
In recent years scholars addressing religious works written by women in the medieval period have become increasingly attuned to the interconnections between gender and power. This focus is partially attributable to the growth of feminist scholarship and partially to post-structuralist theories. Feminist scholarship has called attention to the complex problems involved in recovering, reconstructing, and interpreting works by female authors.1 Post-structuralists have changed the ways we think about writing, texts, and reading.2 Structuralists argued that the relationship between sign (a word such as “prayer”) and thing signified (object, idea or action, such as the act of praying) is completely arbitrary.3 That is, there is no intrinsic relationship between the collection of sounds that make up a word and the thing itself. Poststructuralists added that the “thing itself” (“prayer”) is not a fixed concept located “out there” somewhere in the “real world,” but is ever-changing and, in...
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SOURCE: Duclow, Donald F. “The Hungers of Hadewijch and Eckhart.” Journal of Religion 80, no. 3 (July 2000): 421-41.
[In the following essay, Duclow highlights mystical symbolism associated with eating and hunger in the works of Hadewijch and Meister Eckhart.]
“During these last decades the interest in professional fasting has markedly diminished. It used to pay very well to stage such great performances, … but today that is quite impossible.”1 So begins Kafka's story “The Hunger Artist,” featuring the fictional last of a starving breed. Yet as Kafka and his artist knew, with changing tastes, “fasting would surely come into fashion again at some future date.”2 That date arrived some time ago in academe—and nowhere more vigorously than in the study of medieval women's spirituality.
Caroline Bynum's landmark study Holy Feast and Holy Fast considers fasting and hunger within the broader context of the religious and gendered meanings of food and eating. She describes “a threefold pattern” in the lives and writings of medieval women: “Women fast, women feed others, and women eat (but never ordinary food). Women fast—and hunger becomes an image for excruciating, never-satiated love of God. Women feed—and their bodies become an image of suffering poured out for others. Women eat—and whether they devour the filth of sick bodies or the...
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Dietrich, Paul A. “The Wilderness of God in Hadewijch II and Meister Eckhart and His Circle.” In Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete, edited by Bernard McGinn, pp. 31-43. New York: Continuum, 1994.
Comparative analysis of mystical imagery in Mengeldichten, Eckhart's Granum Sinapis, and Johannes Tauler's Song of Bareness.
Guest, Tanis M. “Psychology and Style: Contrast, Paradox, and Other Features.” In Some Aspects of Hadewijch's Poetic Form in the ‘Strofische Gedichten,’ pp. 118-47. The Hague Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975.
Interprets Hadewijch's use of paradox and personification in her Strofische Gedichten, particularly in relation to her theme of Minne, or idealized Love.
Lagorio, Valerie M. “The Medieval Continental Women Mystics: An Introduction.” In An Introduction to the Medieval Mystics of Europe, edited by Paul E. Szarmach, pp. 161-93. Albany: State University of New York, Press, 1984.
Mentions Hadewijch as the originator of a new genre of medieval religious poetry in the Low Countries.
Murk-Jansen, S. M. “A Re-evaluation of the Theology and Mysticism of the Mengeldichten.” In The Measure of Mystic Thought: A Study of Hadewijch's...
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