Monasticism and Literature Criticism: Women And Monasticism - Essay

Linda Georgianna (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Georgianna, Linda. “Any Corner of Heaven: Heloise's Critique of Monasticism.” Medieval Studies 49 (1987): 221-53.

[In the following essay, Georgianna analyzes Heloise's letters to Abelard concerning her conversion to monastic life and her requests for a new form of religious rule.]

In Héloïse and Abélard, Étienne Gilson wrote:

The correspondence of Héloïse and Abélard lies open in front of us. We can gloss it to our hearts' content, and search for newer and stranger hypotheses to explain its origin. A lot of this kind of thing has been done already, and no doubt the future will see a great deal more of it....

(The entire section is 17692 words.)

Shari Horner (essay date 1994)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Horner, Shari. “En/closed Subjects: The Wife's Lament and the Culture of Early Medieval Female Monasticism.” In Old English Literature: Critical Essays, edited by R. M. Liuzza, pp. 381-91. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2002.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1994, Horner analyzes the elegy “The Wife's Lament” for indications of what life was like in the female monastic community.]

It has long been accepted critical practice in Old English scholarship1 to acknowledge that the Old English elegies employ the language of the Germanic-heroic world, of retainers and lords, to articulate a Christian...

(The entire section is 4602 words.)

Felice Lifshitz (essay date 1996)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Lifshitz, Felice. “Is Mother Superior? Towards a History of Feminine Amtscharisma.” In Medieval Mothering, edited by John Carmi Parsons and Bonnie Wheeler, pp. 117-38. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996.

[In the following essay, Lifshitz explores the nature of the authority exercised by abbesses.]

No studies have yet explored the authority and office of female monastic superiors, nor have the latter been taken into account in studies of male monastic authority. Various sources, particularly monastic rules and conciliar legislation, are used to open the issue.


(The entire section is 8764 words.)

Nancy Bradley Warren (essay date fall 1998)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Warren, Nancy Bradley. “Pregnancy and Productivity: The Imagery of Female Monasticism within and beyond the Cloister Walls.” The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 28, no. 3 (fall 1998): 531-52.

[In the following essay, Warren explores the Middle English version of the story of the miracle of the pregnant abbess from the Alphabet of Tales, interpreting it in terms of the association made between women's economic and sexual activities.]


In the Middle English version of the miracle of the pregnant abbess, as it appears in the collection of exempla known as...

(The entire section is 9664 words.)

Constance H. Berman (essay date 2002)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Berman, Constance H. “Introduction: Religious Women and Religious Reform in the High Middle Ages, with an Emphasis on Cistercian Nuns.” In Women and Monasticism in Medieval Europe: Sisters and Patrons of the Cistercian Reform, edited by Constance H. Berman, pp. 1-14. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Medieval Institute Publications and The Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages, 2002.

[In the following essay, Berman provides an overview of the history of women's religious communities. Parenthetical numerical references in the text refer to documents presented in Berman's edition.]

Women played a role in the history of monasticism from its origins in early...

(The entire section is 4138 words.)

David Brakke (essay date fall 2003)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Brakke, David. “The Lady Appears: Materializations of ‘Woman’ in Early Monastic Literature.” The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 33, no. 3 (fall 2003): 387-402.

[In the following essay, Brakke discusses narratives about monks who, upon their deaths, were revealed to have been disguised women.]

According to a famous monastic saying, the Egyptian desert in Late Antiquity was the place where, as in some recent theory about gender in history, “there are no women.”1 To be sure, the desert was filled with thoughts of women, memories of abandoned wives and mothers, and demonic specters of women, but monks claimed that there were...

(The entire section is 6772 words.)