Versions of Virginity in Late Medieval England

October 2001
288 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9780859916226
Format: Hardback

Versions of Virginity in Late Medieval England

Sarah Salih

Medieval virginity theory explored through study of martyrs, nuns and Margery Kempe.
This study looks at the question of what it meant to be a virgin in the middle ages, and the forms which female virginity took. It begins with the assumptions that there is more to virginity than sexual inexperience, and that virginity may be considered as a gendered identity, a role which is performed rather than biologically determined. The author explores versions of virginity as they appear in medieval saints' lives, in the institutional chastity of nuns, and as shown in the book of Margery Kempe, showing how it can be active, contested, vulnerable but also recoverable.

SARAH SALIH teaches in the Department of English at King's College London.


A solid contribution to the study of modes of virginity in England. Her bibliography is excellent, and her notes judicious. I highly recommend this work. SPECULUM [Thomas J. Heffernan]

This book will be of use and interest to all those working on medieval and early modern religion and gender.JNL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY

A book of immense importance because it has attended to the complexities of a religious discourse that is strikingly foreign to modern sensibilities. REFORMATION

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