Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg and Marguerite Porete / Marguerite Porete: The Mirror of Simple Souls

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg and Marguerite Porete / Marguerite Porete: The Mirror of Simple Souls

Article excerpt

Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics:Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete. Edited by Bernard McGinn. (New York: Continuum. 1994. Pp. x, 166. $19.95.)

Marguerite Porete: The Mirror of Simple Souls. Translated and introduced by Ellen L. Babinsky. (New York: Paulist Press. 1993. Pp. x, 249. $24.95 cloth, $17.95 paperback.)

The growing interest in medieval women's religious literature, as evidenced in the proliferation of critical editions, translations, and scholarly studies of their works over the past several decades, has now led to the establishment and exploration of a new and promising area of medieval studies, namely, the affinities between these authors and their medieval male counterparts. Since Meister Eckhart has long been one of the most widely studied of the latter group, it is not surprising that the volume Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics should be one of the first book-length publications to explore this new frontier.

Growing out of papers delivered during two sessions of the twenty-eighth International Conference on Medieval Studies held at Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1993, the book includes studies by eight scholars, including a lucid introduction by the editor, Bernard McGinn, and a carefully nuanced conclusion by Richard Woods. The other six papers-by Paul Dietrich, Amy Hollywood, Maria Lichtmann, Saskia Murk-Jansen, Michael Sells, and Frank Tobin-examine affinities between the work of Eckhart and that of the individual beguines named in the book's subtitle.

For the most part, the authors do not claim that Eckhart was directly influenced by the writings of these beguines, most of whom lived a generation or two earlier (although Amy Hollywood is less hesitant than the others in this regard). Instead, they are intent on showing, in the words of Michael Sells, that there was "a sustained and intricate conversatio between the Beguine tradition of vernacular theology that in some ways culminated with Porete and the formal traditions (Neo-Platonism, scholasticism) that reached another sort of culmination with Eckhart" (p. …

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