Routledge Handbook

The Routledge Handbook of Medieval European Women and Christianity

Ed. Michelle M. Sauer and Jenny C. Bledsoe

With an audience of both advanced undergraduates and scholars, The Routledge Handbook of Medieval European Women and Christianity will feature medieval religious women, from nuns to canonesses to lay women, and, in the course of introducing these women and their religious movements, will demonstrate how literary expression was central to Christian devotion. The volume will allow readers to cross-reference geography, chronology, and genre, from Britain to Iberia to Bohemia, from the early Middle Ages up to the Reformation, from religious rules to prayers to diaries. The volume’s organization demonstrates women’s devotional expressions as fundamental to the shape of medieval European Christianity and its devotional movements. These devotional texts lay a foundation for the intimacy and interiority found in Christian literature before and even after the Reformation.

The handbook opens with a section on “reading and writing practices” to establish our gendered perspective on traditions, our emphasis on the interconnectedness of religion and material culture, and our insistence that the female experience was diffusely present within medieval culture. These five opening chapters will provide essential background as well as numerous cross-references to the individuals, movements, and genres discussed in the later sections. This will be followed by a substantial section on fifty individual women. Functioning as “case studies” of sorts, these women are representative of every major area in Europe, and the essays will consider their cultural importance within their own geographic and vocational tradition as well as their wider impact on Europe and Christianity as a whole. Section three will address movements and vocations, including the multitude of choices medieval women enjoyed when selecting a religious path. These chapters will demonstrate the various vocations chosen by the women introduced earlier and why those choices suited them individually and culturally. Finally, section four will address specific genres of Christian religious literature and women’s contributions to them. Sections one, three, and four will cut across geographic and cultural lines demonstrating similarities and differences within Christian Europe. Section two will have a narrower focus on specific individuals, including their written works and how they engaged with the more universal practices and traditions.