Ann K. Warren Anchorites and their Patrons in Medieval England ( Los Angeles and Berkeley, 1985) is an important recent study, concentrating particularly on the economic and social position of recluses but also informative on their way of life in general. Sharon K. Elkins, Holy Women of Twelfth-Century England ( Chapel Hill, 1988), and Sally Thompson, Women Religious: The Founding of English Nunneries after the Norman Conquest ( Oxford, 1991), are helpful on the broader contemporary context of institutional religion. Medieval Women, ed. Derek Baker ( Oxford, 1978), and the two anthologies edited by John A. Nichols and Lillian Thomas Shank, Distant Echoes: Medieval Religious Women I and Peaceweavers: Medieval Religious Women II, Cistercian Studies Series 71, 72 ( Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1984, 1987), are excellent collections of articles on the religious life of medieval women. Elizabeth Salter, English and International: Studies in the Literature, Art, and Patronage of Medieval England, ed. Derek Pearsall and Nicolette Zeeman ( Cambridge, 1988), Part 1, chs. 1 and 2, offers a valuable account of the literary context.
This list is intended only as an introductory guide; for a general survey of research on these texts and a full bibliography, see Roger Dahood, "Ancrene Wisse, the Katherine Group, and the Wohunge Group", in A. S. G. Edwards (ed.), Middle English Prose: A Critical Guide to Major Authors and Genres ( New Brunswick, NJ, 1984). Further references on particular points are given in the footnotes to the Introduction.
On the authorship and origins of Ancrene Wisse and the works associated with it, see E. J. Dobson, The Origins of 'Ancrene Wisse' ( Oxford, 1976). The standard study of the literary dialect in which they were written is still that in S. R. T. O. d'Ardenne's edition of the life of St Juliana, pe Liflade ant te Passiun of Seinte Iuliene ( Liðge, 1936), repr. as EETS, OS 248 ( London, 1961), but this should be supplemented by Arne Zettersten Studies in the Dialect and Vocabulary of the 'Ancrene Riwle' (Lund Studies in English, 34; Lund, 1965), which is often useful on the origin and meaning of individual words. The most recent literary study, covering Ancrene Wisse and the Katherine Group, is Elizabeth Robertson Early English Devotional Prose and the Female Audience ( Knoxville, Tennessee, 1990). There is also now a complete translation of Ancrene Wisse, the Katherine Group, and the Wooing Group by Anne Savage and Nicholas Watson, with a Preface by Benedicta Ward, in Anchoritic Spirituality: Ancrene Wisse and Associated Works, The Classics of Western Spirituality ( New York and Mahwah, N. J., 1991).