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

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $72.00
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 20%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (9) from $72.00   
  • New (4) from $94.32   
  • Used (5) from $72.00   


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.
Read More Show Less

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
Read More Show Less

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

Note on Style
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
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)