The Pastoral Care of Women in Late Medieval England

The Pastoral Care of Women in Late Medieval England

Beth Allison Barr


Boydell Press



A close examination of religious texts illuminates the way in which parish priests dealt with their female parishioners in the middle ages.
The question of how priests were taught to think about and care for female parishioners is the topic of this book. As neither misogynist villains nor saintly heroes, clerical authors of pastoral vernacular literature persisted both in their characterization of women as difficult parishioners and in their attempts to recognize women as ordinary parishioners who deserved ordinary pastoral care. Focusing on the important vernacular writings of John Mirk, his Festial and Instructions for Parish Priests, the author reveals how even a small number of influential sermon compilations, exempla, and pastoral guides could have significantly shaped the perceptions, attitudes, and - perhaps - actions of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century priests. Shedding light on the mental universe of the late medieval parish, this study offers important new insights into the reality of how priests perceived and fulfilled their spiritual obligations to the women they served.

BETH ALLISON BARR is Assistant Professor of European Women's History at Baylor University.


April 2008
182 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Gender in the Middle Ages
ISBN: 9781843833734
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

Introduction: "Be it husband, be it wife?"
Pastoral Vernacular Literature
Pastoral Language
Pastoral Perceptions
Pastoral Care
Conclusion: Gendered Lessons


A well-intentioned and widely-researched book. JOURNAL OF ENGLISH AND GERMANIC PHILOLOGY

(This) excellent monograph will be of use to anyone studying women between the time of the Black Death and the Reformation. YEAR'S WORK IN ENGLISH STUDIES

Possesses multiple strengths. With each new chapter (Barr) presents a solid argument backed with valid textual evidence. SPECULUM
Demonstrates sound, serious and painstaking research supported by abundant, colourful and highly enjoyable exempla. These exempla are an absolute delight in themselves and can potentially interest not only scholars of late medieval England and medievalists in general but also historians, history teachers and all those interested in the history of European civilisation. (...) An important and thorough study. REVUE D'HISTOIRE ECCLESIASTIQUE
Adds new dimensions to our understanding of the pastoral care of women in late-medieval England. It is also a valuable addition to the developing field of medieval gender studies. (...) This study adds new layers of complexity to our picture of the pastoral care of women in medieval England. (...) The Pastoral Care of Women in Late Medieval England will make an excellent textbook for college and university courses in the history of pastoral care, medieval church history, and medieval gender studies and women's studies. It will also be a welcome addition to the libraries of scholars in those fields. CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW

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