Women and sanctity : the lives of the female saints written in English from Cynewulf to the Katherine Group
An important concern in these Lives is the conflict between the flesh and the spirit. Virginity in particular plays a central part. The first part of this study examines the background to these concerns. The discussion is based on works by the Fathers, particularly St Augustine, and by English writers (Bede, Aldhelm and Ælfric). Illustrations are taken from the Old English Lives. The following areas are covered: the disobedience of the flesh, of which sexual lust was one symptom; the Christian view of virginity as a means of recovering the obedience of the flesh and restoring the harmonious relationship between man and God lost by the fall; the qualities, physical and spiritual, required of a virgin; the powers attributed to virginity in the Lives of virgin saints. The last part of the section discusses the reasons for the greater emphasis given to virginity in women than in men, and examines the degree to which such reasons influenced the Lives produced in England before the Conquest. The second part consists of studies, in the light of the foregoing, of the following Old English Lives: Cynewulf's Juliana; Eugenia; Euphrosyne; Margaret; Mary of Egypt. Part three traces developments in spirituality and changes in attitudes towards women which influenced the Lives of the Katherine Group. The following are amongst the works discussed: the Liber Confortorius of Goscelin; works by Anselm and the Cistercians; Hali Meiðhad and the Ancrene Wisse. This is followed in part four by studies of the three Lives of the Katherine Group. The Appendix provides textual and bibliographical information about the Lives which are the subject of the study.