Women's Writing in Middle English Renaissance Woman, a Sourcebook. Constructions of Femininity in England Late Merovingian France. History and Hagiography 640-720 Sainted Women of the Dark Ages

Magistra, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Women's Writing in Middle English Renaissance Woman, a Sourcebook. Constructions of Femininity in England Late Merovingian France. History and Hagiography 640-720 Sainted Women of the Dark Ages


Barratt, Alexandra, ed., (New York: Longman Pub, 1992), 328 pp., paper, ISBN 0-582-06192-X

Aughterson, Kate, ed., (New York: Routledge, 1995), 316 pp, paper, ISBN 0-415-12046-2

Fouracre, Paul and Richard Gerberding, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), 397 pp, paper, $27.95, ISBN 0-7190-4791-9 [available through St. Martin's Press]

McNamara, Jo Ann & John Halborg, with E. Gordon Whatley, ed. and trans., (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992), 340 pp., paper, ISBN 0-8223-1216-6

Each of these are collections of translations of the Lives, histories, letters and writings by and/or about women. Some of these texts have never been translated into English before. All of these provide much needed access to texts that reveal something of the lives and spirituality of women. The cross-section of these texts provides insight into the political and cultural worlds that shaped women's spirituality.

Barratt has chosen key texts in Middle English from the pre-Renaissance period of 1300 to 1530 and provides her readers with authoritative annotations on the texts. Some of these texts were originally written in Middle English, some translated into Middle English by women and some were composed by women in French and Latin but were available in Middle English. This collection includes mystical writings, prayers, meditations, commentary on scripture, personal letters, educational writings, romance and poetry. I was delighted to find some new voices here. The collection includes a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Aughterson has collected accounts from and about early modern women in England. Sources range from medical documents to political pamphlets, sermons, Biblical studies and literary texts. There are nine thematic sections: theology, physiology, conduct, sexuality and motherhood, politics and law, education, work, writing and speaking, and feminism. Aughterson includes notes and bibliographies.

This collection touches upon the social contexts, gender constructs and diverse cultural influences which affected women's self-understanding and spirituality. As a volume focused on gender and women's studies, the sources are helpful for a more correct understanding of the Renaissance woman's spirituality.

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