Women Readers in the Middle Ages

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Throughout the Middle Ages, the number of female readers was far greater than is commonly assumed. D. H. Green shows that, after clerics and monks, religious women were the main bearers of written culture and its expansion. Moreover, laywomen played a vital part in the process whereby the expansion of literacy brought reading from religious institutions into homes, and increasingly from Latin into vernacular languages. This study assesses the various ways in which reading was practised between c.700 and 1500 and how these differed from what we mean by reading today. Focusing on Germany, France and England, it considers the different categories of women for whom reading is attested (laywomen, nuns, recluses, semi-religious women, heretics), as well as women's general engagement with literature as scribes, dedicatees, sponsors and authors. This fascinating study opens up the world of the medieval woman reader to new generations of scholars and students.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Encyclopedic, explosive, pointed—these are the adjectives that leap to mind as I reflect back on the experience of reading D.H. Green’s masterful study of medieval women readers, more specifically those we can identify in the written traditions and cultures of Germany, France, and England, from the earliest examples found in the eighth century, through the expansions of the exuberant twelfth, and on into the teeming world of the late Middle Ages from the thirteenth to the end of the fifteenth century."
-Matilda Tomaryn Bruckner, Boston College

"At every point, Green is sensitive to the different ways of assessing available data. Thus the (negative) exclusion of women from public space yields the (positive) ‘‘room of one’s own’’ for women’s personal reading; the idealizing tendency of courtly literature can nevertheless suggest the plausibility of women as readers, and so on."
-Matilda Tomaryn Bruckner, Boston College

"In sorting through the accumulation of named and unnamed women, Green helps us value not only their growing mass but also where they lead us in understanding how women operated as readers (in Latin or the vernacular), whose literacy may or may not have needed support from the more literate around them,whether male or female."
-Matilda Tomaryn Bruckner, Boston College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521879422
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2007
  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature Series, #65
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

D. H. Green is Professor Emeritus in the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; Part I. Reading in the Middle Ages: 1. Literal reading; 2. Figurative reading; Part II. Women and Reading in the Middle Ages: 3. Categories of women readers; 4. Women's engagement with literature; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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