Medieval Anchoritisms

August 2011
211 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Gender in the Middle Ages
ISBN: 9781843842774
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
BISAC HIS037010, REL086000, REL108020

Medieval Anchoritisms

Gender, Space and the Solitary Life

Liz Herbert McAvoy

An examination of the importance of anchoritism to social, cultural and religious life in the middle ages.
Originating in the deserts of northern Africa in the early years of Christianity, anchoritism, or the enclosed solitary life, gradually metamorphosed into a permanent characteristic of European religiosity; from the twelfth century onwards, and throughout the middle ages, it was embraced with increasing enthusiasm, by devoted laywomen in particular.
This book investigates the wider cultural importance of medieval anchoritism within the different religious landscapes and climates of the period. Drawing upon a range of contemporary gender and spatial theories, it focuses on the gender dynamics of this remarkable way of life, and the material spaces which they generated and within which they operated. As such, it unites related - but too often discrete - areas of scholarship, including early Christian anchoritism, anchoritic guidance texts and associated works, fourteenth and fifteenth-century holy women with close anchoritic connections, and a range of other less known works dealing with or connected to the anchoritic life.

Dr LIZ HERBERT MCAVOY is Senior Lecturer in Gender in English and Medieval Studies at Swansea University

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Table of Contents

Miles Christi: Early Anchoritic Masculinity and the Sacred
Videte vocacionem vestram: Late Medieval Male Anchoritism and the Spectral Feminine
Writing the Flesh: Female Anchoritism and the Master Narrative
Reading with the Eyes Closed: Revising the Master Narrative
Mapping the Anchorhold: Anchorites, Borderlands and Liminal Spaces


Liz Herbert McAvoy is to be congratulated for her work over the past decade in helping to bring so many hermits out of their seclusion, and for presenting them to a much wider public than that to which they had long become accustomed. THE ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

Medieval Anchoritisms [...] draw together the recurrent concerns and approaches that have characterized McAvoy's work to date and applies them to a wide range of texts. The book is [...] always stimulating and has a singleness of purpose that is compelling. THE CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW

Medieval Anchoritisms provides an enlightening look into the mechanisms at work behind medieval anchoritic lifestyles and the discourses that shaped it. McAvoy thoroughly investigates tensions that existed between medieval and late antique conceptions of masculinity and enclosure that shaped monasticism and anchoritism. HORTULUS

McAvoy's work [...] is substantial and well-researched, and should be of real interest to its intended audience. JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY

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