Making Manuscripts as Political Engagement by Women in the Fifteenth-Century Observant Reform Movement

Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures

Making Manuscripts as Political Engagement by Women in the Fifteenth-Century Observant Reform Movement

Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures

Vol. 42, No. 2, Special Issue: Medieval Womens Religious Texts in the Germanic Regions (2016), pp. 224-247

Published by:Penn State University Press

DOI: 10.5325/jmedirelicult.42.2.0224

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NunsCloistersConventsDominican OrderIllustrationPolitical reformWritten narrativesReligious literaturePreachersLiterature

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Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures

Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures

) is currently in its thirty-second year of continuous publication. The journal chiefly publishes peer-reviewed essays on mystical and devotional texts, especially but not exclusively of the Western Middle Ages. In its new form it seeks to expand its areas of focus to include the relationship of medieval religious cultures outside Europe. The journal also publishes book reviews and disseminates information of interest to all those who by profession, vocation, or inclination are interested in mysticism and the Middle Ages.

2010-2017 (Vol. 36, No. 1 – Vol. 43, No. 2)

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This article challenges the view that womens writing in the fifteenth century was simply naive, harmless work that was not part of the mainstream. In fact, convent womens narratives and historical house chronicles are in many instances much more politically engaged than has generally been understood. Examined in the context of the fifteenth-century struggle for religious reform in which many were involved, womens writings and book illustrations reveal a kind of polemical reform mentality. This article shows some ways in which these writers portrayal of themselves diverges from traditional mainstream narratives about women that depict them as victims or pawns in the religious struggles of the day. The nuns own stories, however, reveal a remarkable degree of political savvy and engagement in which religious women through writing their convent histories and reform accounts found a voice and a way to exercise agency.

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