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Title: Female spirituality and intellect in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries : a case study of Herrad of Hohenbourg
Author: Griffiths, F.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1998
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My doctoral thesis addresses the spiritual and intellectual activity of women during the scholastic period. I have focused on Herrad of Hohenbourg (d. after 1196) and on the Hortus deliciarum, the encyclopaedia manuscript that was produced at the Alsatian monastery of which she was abbess. This volume was designed as a didactic work for use within a small community of Augustinian nuns. Although similar in concept to contemporary sentence collections, the Hortus is singular in that it was intended for the edification of women, rather than men. The existence of this text belies the traditional belief that women remained uneducated for much of the medieval period. My study of Herrad has forced a re-examination of women's intellectual achievements during the medieval period. Of the three major female religious writers of the twelfth century - Hildegard of Bingen (d. 1179), Elisabeth of Schönau (d. 1164) and Herrad - only the first two have been subjects of recent scholarship. The writings of these two women grew out of a particular form of spirituality: they are deeply personal and visionary. Their works stand in sharp contrast to that of Herrad. Hildegard and Elisabeth experienced God personally and recorded their experiences, while Herrad approached theology as an academic subject. She aligned herself with the intellectual environment of the emerging universities. In her spirituality as in her writing, Herrad differed from her contemporaries. She exhibited none of the affective traits that have come to be associated with medieval women. Unlike Hildegard and Elisabeth, who experienced the divine through frailty and ill-health, Herrad refused to view herself as the weaker vessel, claiming authority, like men, on the basis of her extensive learning. Herrad's significance in the debate over medieval women's religious and intellectual experiences is two-fold. In the first place, she presents a corrective to the traditional view which has held the interest and participation of women in scholarly endeavours to be a development of the modern period. The Hortus, as it was a text which was written by a woman for the education of women, stands as a monument to the role of women in intellectual discourse as early as the twelfth century. In the second place, Herrad stands as a check to the current enthusiasm for the model of 'female' spirituality which was presented in biographies of women which were written by medieval men.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available