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Key characteristics of this special style--nonteleological structre, pervasive use of concrete imagery, and thematic focus on the female body--have been viewed by some as hallmarks of women's writing more generally. Combining feminist theory with critical skill and an impressive command of Old and Middle English materials, the author argues, to the contrary, that in the thirteenth-century England this style was created by educated male writers in accord with their beliefs about nature and needs of marginal social groups.
Beginning with the history and motivations of female anchorites and surveying medieval philosophy and theology in relation to gender theory, this book offers the first comprehensive analysis of the AB texts and then details their debt to earlier English vernacular works and to the continental theological movements that increasingly emphasized physical experience and matter. The result is an exciting, learned account of the feminization of early English prose.