Women, Men, and Spiritual Power: Female Saints and Their Male Collaborators

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Overview

In Women, Men, and Spiritual Power, John Coakley explores male-authored narratives of the lives of Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen, Angela of Foligno, and six other female prophets or mystics of the late Middle Ages. His readings reveal the complex personal and literary relationships between these women and the clerics who wrote about them. Coakley's work also undermines simplistic characterizations of male control over women, offering an important contribution to medieval religious history.

Coakley shows that these male-female relationships were marked by a fundamental tension between power and fascination: the priests and monks were supposed to hold authority over the women entrusted to their care, but they often switched roles, as the men became captivated with the women's spiritual gifts. In narratives of such women, the male authors reflect directly on the relationship between the women's powers and their own. Coakley argues that they viewed these relationships as gendered partnerships that brought together female mystical power and male ecclesiastical authority without placing one above the other.

Women, Men, and Spiritual Power chronicles a wide-ranging experiment in the balance of formal and informal powers, in which it was assumed to be thoroughly imaginable for both sorts of authority, in their distinctly gendered terms, to coexist and build on each other. The men's writings reflect an extended moment in western Christianity when clerics had enough confidence in their authority to actually question its limits. After about 1400, however, clerics underwent a crisis of confidence, and such a questioning of institutional power was no longer considered safe. Instead of seeing women as partners, their revelatory powers began to be viewed as evidence of witchcraft.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Comitatus - Jessica Andruss

Women, Men, and Spiritual Power is an enlightening book.

Canadian Journal of History - Donna Trembinski

Well-researched and insightful... Women, Men, and Spiritual Power fills a void in the research on female mystics.

The Catholic Historical Review - Barbara Newman

Coakley's elegant study belongs in every medievalist's library.

Church History - Patricia Z. Beckman

Clear conceptual framework...artful analysis

Comitatus
Women, Men, and Spiritual Power is an enlightening book.

— Jessica Andruss

Choice

Coakley illuminates an important dimension of gender relations in the medieval church... Recommended.

Canadian Journal of History
Well-researched and insightful... Women, Men, and Spiritual Power fills a void in the research on female mystics.

— Donna Trembinski

The Catholic Historical Review
Coakley's elegant study belongs in every medievalist's library.

— Barbara Newman

Journal of Religion

[Coakley's] examination of spiritual friendships between women and men is lucidly written and solidly argued.

Church History

Coakley's clear conceptual framework alone would be extraordinarily helpful to excerpt as a brief introduction to the primary questions in the field.

Church History

Clear conceptual framework...artful analysis

— Patricia Z. Beckman

Canadian Journal of History

Well-researched and insightful... Women, Men, and Spiritual Power fills a void in the research on female mystics.

— Donna Trembinski

The Catholic Historical Review

Coakley's elegant study belongs in every medievalist's library.

— Barbara Newman

Comitatus

Women, Men, and Spiritual Power is an enlightening book.

— Jessica Andruss

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231134002
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 1/11/2006
  • Series: Gender, Theory, and Religion Ser.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John W. Coakley is the L. Russell Feakes Professor of Church History, New Brunswick Theological Seminary. He is the coeditor (with Andrea Sterk) of Readings in World Christian History.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction. "You Draw Us After You"1. The Powers of Holy Women2. Revelation and Authority in Ekbert and Elisabeth of Schönau3. A Shared Endeavor? Guibert of Gembloux on Hildegard of Bingen4. James of Vitry and the Other World of Mary of Oignies5. Self and Saint: Peter of Dacia on Christine of Stommeln6. Hagiography and Theology in the Memorial of Angela of Foligno7. The Limits of Religious Authority: Margaret of Cortona and Giunta Bevegnati8. Hagiography in Process: Henry of Nördlingen and Margaret Ebner9. Managing Holiness: Raymond of Capua and Catherine of Siena10. Revelation and Authority Revisited: John Marienwerder on Dorothy of Montau11. Authority and Female Sanctity: ConclusionsNotesAbbreviationsBibliographyIndex

Columbia University Press

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