Hildegard von Bingen Criticism - Essay

Charles Singer (essay date 1917)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Charles Singer, "The Scientific Views and Visions of Saint Hildegard (1098-1180)," in Studies in the History and Method of Science, edited by Charles Singer, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1917, pp. 1-58.

[In the following excerpt, Singer focuses on Hildegard's scientific thought, examining the sources of her scientific ideas, her conception of the structure of the material universe, and her theological interpretation of nature and the human body.]

In attempting to interpret the views of Hildegard on scientific subjects, certain special difficulties present themselves. First is the confusion arising from the writings to which her name has been erroneously...

(The entire section is 10795 words.)

Peter Dronke (essay date 1984)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Peter Dronke, "Hildegard of Bingen," in Women Writers of the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1984, pp. 144-201.

[In the following excerpt, Dronke draws upon "the twelve principal autobiographic passages that are still preserved in Hildegard's Vita in the form in which she set them down, " in order to discuss the genesis of Hildegard's visionary capacities, the gradual public acceptance of her prophetic voice, and her political sensibility as an abess.]


Hildegard of Bingen still confronts us, after eight centuries, as an overpowering, electrifying presence—and in many ways an enigmatic one. Compared with what earlier...

(The entire section is 16395 words.)

Barbara Newman (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Barbara Newman, "A Poor Little Female," in Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard's Theology of the Feminine, University of California Press, 1987, pp. 1-41.

[In the following excerpt, which has been revised and updated by the author, Newman articulates Hildegard's worldview as depicted in the three books of her trilogy, describes her unique and obscure writing style and the nature of her extensive correspondence, and comments on her influence on the intellectual development of her protégée, Elisabeth of Schönau.]

Hildegard's visionary oeuvre—rich, opaque, and unwieldy—is a phenomenon unique in twelfth-century letters; yet at the same time her books provide a...

(The entire section is 9567 words.)

Barbara J. Newman (essay date 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Barbara J. Newman, in an introduction to Hildegard of Bingen; Scivias, translated by Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop, Paulist Press, 1990, pp. 9-53.

[In the following excerpt, from her introduction to a translation of Hildegard's Scivias, Newman discusses "the essentially prophetic character of Hildegard's spirituality": the "blend of renunciation with privilege" which characterized the abbess 's leadership, and the nature of Hildegard's apocalyptic message.]

Although Hildegard is frequently classified as a mystic, she may be more precisely identified as a visionary and prophet. Classical definitions of mysticism stress the union of the soul with God...

(The entire section is 2671 words.)

Frances Beer (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Frances Beer, "Hildegard of Bingen," in Women and Mystical Experience in the Middle Ages, The Boydell Press, 1992, pp. 15-55.

[In the following essay, Beer provides a historical context for Hildegard's poetic and intellectual achievements, discussing the nature of life in twelfth-century Benedictine monasteries and convents and the increased credibility of the church as a moral force during this time. The critic then discusses Hildegard's life as an administrator, noting her challenges to the policies of several authoritative male figures, her "effective imperviousness to the potent medieval tradition of antifeminism," and her fundamental concern with spiritual growth.]


(The entire section is 6274 words.)

Samuel Lyndon Gladden (essay date 1993)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Samuel Lyndon Gladden, "Hildegard's Awakening: A Self-Portrait of Disruptive Excess," in Representations of the Middle Ages, edited by Bonnie Wheeler, Academia Press, 1993, pp. 217-33.

[In the following essay, Gladden challenges the notion (promoted by Hildegard herself) that Hildegard was a passive agent of God's will whose writings merely record divine truth as it was imparted to her. Gladden argues that "Hildegard's role as an active, subjective editor of God's message becomes clear" and attempts to demonstrate that Hildegard 'knowingly and will-fully encodes a feminine voice in the midst of what appears to be the message of an obviously male-identified God."]


(The entire section is 6808 words.)