Moving Holy Women in the Middle Ages: GMS2021 Roundtable

This week it’s the fantastic Gender and Medieval Studies conference! The theme for this year’s papers is ‘Gender and Mobility’ and the conference is being held online, organised by the University of Surrey. More info available here.

I’ll be speaking on a roundtable on Wednesday afternoon entitled ‘Moving Holy Women in the Middle Ages’, sponsored by the Margery Kempe Society, alongside Laura Saetveit Miles, Jennifer N Brown, and my Margery Kempe collaborator Laura Kalas.

The abstract for our session is below and I’m sure I’ll be back to blog about the discussion later this week!

Moving Holy Women in the Middle Ages

Sponsored by The Margery Kempe Society

Within the patriarchal teachings and regulations of the medieval Church, religious women fashioned alternative routes of devotion which enabled the pursuit of a spiritual life. The practice of an “imitatio Christi with specifically feminine inflections” produced what Barbara Newman terms “the womanChrist model”, where women could attain “an exalted status in the realm of the spirit”. Women moved the boundaries of religious expression, creating ‘grey zones’ such as the Beguine life; moved geographically, travelling on pilgrimage; and moved hearts and minds through their teachings. Yet, as Sarah McNamer has explored in her work on affective meditation, compassion in the Middle Ages was scripted as feminine: just as holy women were affectively ‘moved’ by their devotions, so their devotions ‘moved’ other Christians, both in the Middle Ages and beyond. This roundtable explores the meanings of moving, and being moved, in the devotional experience and writings of medieval women and in modern responses to their charismatic mobility.

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