A work of spiritual guidance composed for English anchoresses, the thirteenthcentury Ancrene Wisse encourages its readers to imitate the Virgin Mary and her exemplary silence. In its attempt thus to manage the anchoritic voice, Part 2 of the text draws on and substantially reimagines the image presented of the saint in a sermon by the Cistercian Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153). For women aspiring to channel spiritual power through their own voice, Mary becomes, as she was for many anchoresses, an object of imitation, though in this case one radically different from Bernard’s model. By reconceptualizing the imperatives of silence, Ancrene Wisse invites the counseling and teaching anchoress into a new relation with her body, in its vocal potentials, and the wider social networks wherein it operated. The work’s figuration of voice demonstrates how both the anchoress and her material environment were shaped through diverse forms of imitatio.


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pp. 87-100
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