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Proving Woman : Female Spirituality and Inquisitional Culture in the Later Middle Ages - Dyan Elliott

Proving Woman

Female Spirituality and Inquisitional Culture in the Later Middle Ages

Paperback Published: 18th April 2004
ISBN: 9780691118604
Number Of Pages: 368

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Around the year 1215, female mystics and their sacramental devotion were among orthodoxy's most sophisticated weapons in the fight against heresy. Holy women's claims to be in direct communication with God placed them in positions of unprecedented influence. Yet by the end of the Middle Ages female mystics were frequently mistrusted, derided, and in danger of their lives. The witch hunts were just around the corner.

While studies of sanctity and heresy tend to be undertaken separately, "Proving Woman" brings these two avenues of inquiry together by associating the downward trajectory of holy women with medieval society's progressive reliance on the inquisitional procedure. Inquisition was soon used for resolving most questions of proof. It was employed for distinguishing saints and heretics; it underwrote the new emphasis on confession in both sacramental and judicial spheres; and it heralded the reintroduction of torture as a mechanism for extracting proof through confession.

As women were progressively subjected to this screening, they became ensnared in the interlocking web of proofs. No aspect of female spirituality remained untouched. Since inquisition determined the need for tangible proofs, it even may have fostered the kind of excruciating illnesses and extraordinary bodily changes associated with female spirituality. In turn, the physical suffering of holy women became tacit support for all kinds of earthly suffering, even validating temporal mechanisms of justice in their most aggressive forms. The widespread adoption of inquisitional mechanisms for assessing female spirituality eventuated in a growing confusion between the saintly and heretical and the ultimate criminalization of female religious expression.

Industry Reviews

Winner of the 2006 Otto Grundler Award, Western Michigan University, The Medieval Institute Finalist for the 2005 Philip Schaff Prize, The American Society of Church History "By revealing the importance of gender-related issues where we had not seen them, [Dyan Elliot] presents that familiar picture in a new, indeed unfamiliar, light."--John Coakley, American Historical Review

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Abbreviationsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
Sacramental Confession as Proof of Orthodoxyp. 9
Women as Proof of Orthodoxy
The Beguines: A Sponsored Emergencep. 47
Elisabeth of Hungary: Between Menp. 85
Inquisitions and Proof
Sanctity, Heresy, and Inquisitionp. 119
Between Two Deaths: The Living Mysticp. 180
The Discernment of Spirits
Clerical Quibblesp. 233
John Gerson and Joan of Arcp. 264
Conclusionp. 297
Bibliographyp. 305
Indexp. 333
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691118604
ISBN-10: 0691118604
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 368
Published: 18th April 2004
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.86 x 15.24  x 1.91
Weight (kg): 0.52