A World Without Women

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In what will no doubt turn out to be a highly controversial book, Noble places his own interpretation upon the historiography of the early and medieval Catholic Church. Relying upon secondary material, and quoting extensively from specialists in the field (he claims no particular expertise in the source material), Noble argues that the clerical culture of medieval Europe, as a result of specific historical events, was misogynistic. Because science as practiced in medieval and Renaissance Europe was a Christian activity, conducted by clerics, it should not be surprising that there was little, if any room in the scientific community for women. This closure to women persisted through the Reformation. Noble links the great names in the Scientific Revolution, Protestant and Catholic alike, with monastic, misogynistic, ascetic attitudes. Only nineteenth century America provided new opportunities for women, thanks to a combination of anti-clerical religious enthusiasm and the flourishing of industrial capitalism.

Some readers will feel that Noble has quoted his predecessors out of context and twisted their meaning. Others, however, will defend him, arguing that his studies of the ideological implications of science and technology have sensitized him to see ramifications that others have missed. No one, whether they agree or disagree with his interpretation, will deny his energy and passion. His thesis is one which will be debated for years.