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Chapter 12 - ‘It satte me wel bet ay in a cave / To bidde and rede on holy seyntes lyves’

Women and Hagiography

from IV - Genre and Gender

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2023

Corinne Saunders
Affiliation:
Durham University
Diane Watt
Affiliation:
University of Surrey
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Summary

This essay explores the specific relevance of hagiography for female readers engaged with the ideals and circumstances of pious lay life. Whitehead demonstrates that the accounts of Hilda, Æthelburga, and Æthelthryth in Bedeߣs Historia are strikingly supplemented by the depictions of female sanctity and powerful female agency in works connected with the eighth-century Anglo-Saxon mission to the Germanic peoples, while sophisticated literary skill is demonstrated by Hrotsvitha, canoness of Gandersheim. The essay demonstrates the long textual life of Bedeߣs abbesses, along with more recent examples of sanctity. Whitehead explores secular and religious contexts, contrasting the Vie seint Audrée, probably written for a courtly audience, with the writings of the anonymous ߢNunߣ and Clemence of Barking and the early Middle English Lives of the virgin martyrs in the Katherine Group, designed for a well-born group of anchoresses in the west Midlands. The essay shows that the lives of women saints continued to be popular reading in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in both lay and religious contexts, including in Benedictine compilations.

Type
Chapter
Information
Women and Medieval Literary Culture
From the Early Middle Ages to the Fifteenth Century
, pp. 250 - 268
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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References

Further Reading

Blanton, Virginia (2007). Signs of Devotion: The Cult of St Aethelthryth in Medieval England, 695–1615, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
Brown, Jennifer, ed. (2008). Three Women of Liège, Turnhout: Brepols.Google Scholar
Brown, Jennifer, and Bussell, Donna, eds. (2012). Barking Abbey and Medieval Literary Culture, Woodbridge: York Medieval Press.Google Scholar
Camp, Cynthia Turner (2015). Anglo-Saxon Saints’ Lives as History Writing in Late Medieval England, Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.Google Scholar
Campbell, Emma (2008). Medieval Saints’ Lives: The Gift, Kinship and Community in Old French Hagiography, Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.Google Scholar
Salih, Sarah (2001). Versions of Virginity in Late Medieval England, Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.Google Scholar
Salih, Sarah, ed. (2006). A Companion to Middle English Hagiography, Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sanok, Catherine (2007). Her Life Historical: Exemplarity and Female Saints’ Lives in Late Medieval England, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
Szarmach, Paul, ed. (2013). Writing Women Saints in Anglo-Saxon England, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
Watt, Diane (2019). Women, Writing and Religion in England and Beyond, 650–1100, London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
Wogan-Browne, Jocelyn (2001). Saints’ Lives and Women’s Literary Culture, c. 1150–1300: Virginity and Its Authorizations, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

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