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God's Words, Women's Voices: The Discernment of Spirits in the Writing of Late-Medieval Women Visionaries

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Overview

Awareness of the ecclesiastical doctrine of discretio spirituum (the means of testing whether visions were truly of divine origin) was vital for medieval women visionaries. Visions and prophecy offered medieval women one of the few pathways to the religious and, in some cases, the political life of their time, but were subject to stringent checks due to the combination of women (deceitful by nature) and deceiving visions. However, those women visionaries who conformed could effectively fulfil their divine mandate to communicate their revelations. This book explores discretio spirituum in the works of a number of female visionaries: they include St Bridget of Sweden, who was eager to present her experiences as impeccably orthodox and valid; Margery Kempe, whose ambivalent reception is shown to be due to her inconsistent conformity to the doctrine; and Marguerite Porete and Joan of Arc, whose deaths by burning at the stake demonstrate the severe consequences of their failure to conform, their visions being deemed of demonic origin. Professor ROSALYNN VOADEN teaches in the Department of English at Arizona State University.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A valuable and welcome contribution to an understanding of some of the imperatives in the religious lives of medieval women and the potential for female empowerment within the discourse of discretio spirituum. NOTES AND QUERIES The doctrine of discernment of spirits - is this a genuine visionary experience, or a diabolical delusion? - is...the focus of the book, which explores the ways in which it both controlled and authorised the woman visionary... A fascinating and carefully focused study. MYSTICS QUARTERLY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780952973423
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer, Limited
  • Publication date: 4/8/1999
  • Series: York Medieval Texts Series
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 0.56 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 6.14 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgement
Note on Style
Abbreviations
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 Women and Vision: The Devil's Gateway 7
Mystics and Visionaries 9
Classical and Christian Misogyny 19
The Medieval Church and Women's Spirituality 27
Women, Vision and discretio spirituum 34
Ch. 2 Seducing Spirits 41
The Discourse of discretio spirituum 44
Discretio spirituum: Definition and Development 46
The Role of the Spiritual Director of Visionaries 57
Popular Knowledge of discretio spirituum 61
Discretio spirituum and Women Visionaries 66
Ch. 3 The Lady Vanishes: Bridget of Sweden, Exemplary Visionary 73
The Woman behind the Visionary 74
Epistola solitarii ad reges: Authority 81; Knowledge 85; Behaviour 89 79
Sancta Birgitta Revelaciones: Authority 96; Knowledge 99; Behaviour 104 93
Ch. 4 Margery Kempe: The Woman Who Would Not Go Away 109
The Tangled Text 110
The Woman behind the Text 115
Margery's Mixed Blessing 117
Discretio spirituum in The Book of Margery Kempe: Authority 122; Knowledge 132; Behaviour 139 122
Exit the Woman 147
Conclusion 155
App The Middle English Epistola solitarii ad reges of Alfonso of Jaen: An Edition of the Text in London, British Library, MS Cotton Julius Fii 159
Bibliography 183
Index 203
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