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The Embodied Word

Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350-1700

Nancy Bradley Warren

Publication Year: 2010

In The Embodied Word: Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350–1700, Nancy Bradley Warren expands on the topic of female spirituality, first explored in her book Women of God and Arms, to encompass broad issues of religion, gender, and historical periodization. Through her analyses of the variety of ways in which medieval spirituality was deliberately and actively carried forward to the early modern period, Warren underscores both continuities and revisions that challenge conventional distinctions between medieval and early modern culture. The early modern writings of Julian of Norwich are an illustrative starting point for Warren’s challenge to established views of English religious cultures. In a single chapter, Warren follows the textual and devotional practices of Julian as they influence two English Benedictine nuns in exile, and then Grace Mildmay, a seventeenth-century Protestant gentry woman, “to shed light on the ways in which individual encounters of the divine, especially gendered bodily encounters expressed textually, signify for others both personally and socio-historically.” In subsequent chapters, Warren discusses St. Birgitta of Sweden’s imitatio Christi in the context of the importance of Spain and Spanish women in shaping a distinctive form of early modern Englishness strongly aligned with medieval religious culture; juxtaposes the fifteenth-century mystic Margery Kempe with the life and writings of Anna Trapnel, a seventeenth-century Baptist; and treats Catherine of Siena together with the Protestant Anne Askew and Lollard and Recusant women. In the final chapters she focuses on the interplay of gender and textuality in women’s textual representations of themselves and in works written by men who used the traditions of female spirituality in the service of competing orthodoxies.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. c-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-18

In 1716, the English Carmelite nuns of Antwerp, needing a larger crypt for burials, hired laborers, who took down “an entire side of the vault, in which eleven or twelve religious had been buried.” One of these was Margaret Wake (in religion Mother Mary Margaret of the Angels), who “had been buried thirty-eight years and two months” and for whom...

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Chapter One

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pp. 19-60

In the miraculous events that transpired at the Antwerp Carmel in 1716, and in the texts produced as a result, we see the operations of incarnational piety, epistemology, textuality, and politics bringing into focus some problems with such binary categories as medieval and early modern, domestic and foreign. This chapter adds Catholic and Protestant...

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Chapter Two

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pp. 61-96

In an essay on the Chinese Manchu prince Yihuan’s poetry about the destruction of the Summer Palace by British and French troops in 1860, Vera Schwarz elegantly declares that “[p]recisely because the past is a fragile, slippery dream, it can hardly be contained by something as exacting as words.”1 In this chapter, I consider the ways in which words...

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Chapter Three

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pp. 97-146

Within a decade of its foundation, the community of English Benedictine nuns of Cambrai found itself in conflict with figures of patriarchal authority over distinctive aspects of their spirituality and their textual production, a state of affairs that would have been quite familiar to St. Birgitta of Sweden and St. Catherine of Siena. English Benedictine officials...

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Chapter Four

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pp. 147-192

The devotional practices and textual product ions of the English Benedictine nuns of Ghent and Dunkirk illustrate ways in which modes of spirituality rooted in the medieval past shape political relations in the nuns’ present, the era of the Civil War and Protectorate, with an aim of bringing a version of that past back to life in the future. In...

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Chapter Five

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pp. 193-240

In the responses to the lives and life writings of Margery Kempe, Anna Trapnel, and Elizabeth Cary, we see political instabilities magnified when these women suggest options for alternative systems of social relations as they relive past holy lives, make their own lives textually accessible to others, and destabilize binary relationships of past and present, male...


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pp. 241-324


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pp. 325-340

Back Cover

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pp. bc-bc

E-ISBN-13: 9780268096687
E-ISBN-10: 0268096686
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268044206
Print-ISBN-10: 0268044201

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 768124245
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Embodied Word

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Human body -- Religious aspects -- Christianity -- History.
  • Women authors, English -- Religious life -- Europe -- History.
  • Christian literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Europe -- Church history.
  • England -- Church history.
  • Christian women -- Religious life -- Europe -- History.
  • Spirituality -- Europe -- History.
  • Christian women -- Religious life -- England -- History
  • Spirituality -- England -- History.
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