Academic journal article Church History

Church History

Academic journal article Church History

Church History

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

Book Reviews and Notes

With this book Liz Herbert McAvoy proposes to examine anchoritic sources "through a historico-literary lens and, moreover, one which took into account issues of gender" (4). The book is, she writes, "the result of many years of thinking about the ways in which a complex alchemy of gender and spatial dynamics are imprecated within the medieval reclusive life, and what the investment was of a wider society in its rituals, practices and hermeneutics" (4). She would demonstrate that "anchoritism's insistently feminine hermeneutics allowed, if only for a short time, the otherwise silent woman to speak out from behind her culturally imposed veil as if she were . . . genuinely in her own place" (9).

This agenda begins its realization with a study of John Cassian. In this first chapter, the author argues "for an inherent tension between his attempts to retain a sense of masculine prowess for the anchorite as a spiritual warrior and the insistent feminization of the anchoritic life" (8). This, she claims, is exemplified in the Rule of Saint Benedict and the tenth-century Rule of Grimläicus of Metz, whom I have not previously met.

Chapter 2 examines the representation of the male anchorite in fourteenth-century texts, though the twelfth-century writers, such as Aelred of Rievaulx and some of the early Carthusians who somehow appear under this heading. In the third chapter, the author tells us: "I necessarily turn to Ancrene Wisse , examining it as an inherently misogynistic male-authored text" (8).

Chapter 4 sees Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, and the female author of the fifteenth-century A Vision of Purgatory countering the previous "misogynistic interpellation" of previous anchoritic authors. …

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