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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  June 2012

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Subject:

Fw: TMR 12.06.02 Wallace, Strong Women (Rosenthal)

From:

Rosemary Hayes-Milligan and Andrew Milligan <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 7 Jun 2012 11:30:43 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Another of interest to this list?

Rosemary Hayes
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "The Medieval Review" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 2:28 PM
Subject: TMR 12.06.02 Wallace, Strong Women (Rosenthal)


> Wallace, David.  <i>Strong Women: Life, Text, and Territory, 1347-
> 1645</i>. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.  Pp. xxxi, 288. $55.
> ISBN: 978-0-19-954171-3.
>
>   Reviewed by Joel T. Rosenthal
>        State University of New York at Stony Brook (emeritus)
>        [log in to unmask]
>
>
> In this dazzling display of erudition David Wallace has amplified his
> 2007 Clarendon Lectures and in doing so has provided us with a
> fascinating and thought-provoking "compare and contrast" study of four
> women of deep religious conviction and practice.  They are presented
> in two pairings: two women of the later Middle Ages (Dorothea of
> Montau, 1347-1394 and Margery Kempe of Lynne, c. 1373-c. 1440) and two
> Catholic women of the Counter-Reformation who began life in Protestant
> England (Mary Ward of Yorkshire, 1585-1645 and Elizabeth Cary of Drury
> Lane, 1585-1639).  All four shared a conviction--worked out in varying
> ways--that a life dedicated to spirituality was <i>the</i> life to
> live in God's world and under Christ's blessings and mandates, no
> matter how awkward or difficult or even dangerous this might prove to
> be.  They chose, or found themselves on, very difficult paths for
> their pilgrimages (undertaken both literally and metaphorically).
> Furthermore, each woman's pathway is "alive" for us today because a
> contemporary either wrote for them (as with Margery's dictated
> autobiography) or about them (as in the life written by her cloistered
> daughters to give us the tale of Elizabeth Cary); contemporary scribal
> practice and modern scholarship and reader-reception both come in for
> kudos on this score.  Furthermore, not least among their similarities,
> each was only set free to follow the rocky road to her Jerusalem upon
> the death of a key male figure whom they saw as an impediment, a
> roadblock to the quest for spiritual autonomy; a father and then a
> husband who beat her, for Dorothea, bemused husbands for the others.
> Each of Wallace's four women--with one chapter per heroine--had to
> fight the obstacles of male-oriented authority, of hierarchies and
> social structures that cast an unsympathetic eye on the pursuit of
> individualized, feminine spirituality.  In a less sympathetic
> phrasing, we can say that we have four religious cranks who would not
> back down, living though they were in a world where most found the
> accepted boundaries of religious practice and enthusiasm quite
> adequate for their spiritual aspirations and where women who pushed
> the boundaries, let alone crossed them, were all the more suspect.
>
> Wallace sets Dorothea of Montau's quest for spiritual expression and
> uneasy peace into the context of the <i>Drang nach Ostend</i> that
> brought people of Germany, such as her father, out to that border (or
> liminal) realm of what is now Poland, then being settled by the
> Teutonic Knights.  Dorothea, child of a mother whose fingers were
> deformed from her constant resort to her rosary, began from age seven
> to inflict punishment upon her own body.  In her desire to mortify her
> flesh--the "willing submission to physical pain twinned with willing
> application of it" (8)--we have the litany of the hair shirt, the log
> pillow, the hurlings to the ground, semi-starvation, needles in the
> feet, burns from boiling water, and other ways of identifying with the
> crucified savior.  Being enclosed in an anchorite's cell was, no
> doubt, just the logical extension of an unending search for a humility
> that reached "self-obliteration;" Dorothea found this solace in
> enclosure at Marienwerder.  We know of this painful life because
> Father Johannes Marienwerder became her spiritual historian and has
> left us a <i>vita</i> that both chronicles her spiritual journey and
> offered the material for a canonization campaign that began shortly
> after her death in 1394 and that finally came to fruition in 1976
> (Paul VI).  Given the presence of Hussite heretics and of newly-
> Christianized folk in what was very much a frontier world, a local
> saint who was almost a martyr, almost a recreated virgin recluse
> (despite nine children), and a local girl, might have been an
> attractive hammer against the Church's enemies.  Instead, Dorothea's
> cult was suppressed in 1544 and it really not until such as George
> Eliot (with <i>Middlemarch</i> reflecting aspects of her story)
> rediscovered her that her cause (for canonization) gained some of its
> long-lost momentum.  In more recent times the image of Dorothea as a
> beacon of east-oriented Germanization has had a sinister side, as we
> might imagine, though today we also focus on her life as a feminist
> engaged in her own version of a search for a life course.  The irony
> is that we know of Dorothea's painful odyssey through the account of a
> priest, an "author [who] was keen to desexualize his candidate saint"
> and to make her a role model who conformed to masculinized agenda.
>
> Margery Kempe is certainly the most familiar of Wallace's strong
> women, at least to the Anglophone world.  Wallace begins this chapter
> by discussing how Margery's tale became accessible to modern readers.
> As he presents it it is very much a tale of the 1930s, with the
> decade's focus on women's consciousness (thanks to Virginia Woolf)
> matched perhaps by its concern for <i>hysteria</i> and <i>neurosis</i>
> (credit Freud for this).  As the Teutonic knights had "controlled
> Dorothea's textual afterlife" (62), so Margery's fate and fame rested
> on the labors of her 15th century scribe and on the modern scholarly
> labors of Hope Emily Allen, William Butler-Bowdon, and Sanford Meech
> (though more credit should go to Ruth Meech).  And as Dorothea could
> be a heroine of a German push against Slavic Europe to the east,
> Margery--the restless and always-seeking daughter of a mayor of Lynne-
> -could be cast in 1936 as the English Joan of Arc.  Wallace traces the
> popularization of this eccentric heroine: the front page of the
> <i>Times Literary Supplement</i> (13 December, 1941, a week after
> Pearl Harbor) and other unlikely and improbable public viewings.  But
> against this wave of fervor there was also the interest in analyzing
> what was "wrong" with Margery; why that restless search, that nerve to
> denounce any and all deemed to be of lesser faith, the need to travel
> to Jerusalem and Rome and <i>Danzig</i>--Dorothea country, we note--as
> well as to cathedrals and market squares and bishops' palaces in
> England?  Wallace argues that we should not pathologize Ms Kempe; her
> case study makes considerable sense in the context of her world, at
> least if we accept the pronouncement with which he opens the book:
> "literature is the truest history" (xv).
>
> Mary Ward ("Holy Amazon") spent her life as an evangelist of Roman
> Catholic good works and an educational mission.  To do this she had to
> fight two great enemies: the heretics of her native land who had
> broken with Rome and the powerful forces within <i>her</i> Church
> that, in keeping with the decrees of Trent, wanted her safely and
> securely placed within the cloister.  She resisted both with all her
> strength and spirit, seeing her mission as one that entailed sending
> "religious women to the streets" (134).  And so well were her words
> and the details of her life suppressed that it is only in the last
> decade or two that the various lives and autobiographical fragments
> (in English, Italian, and French) have become readily accessible.  An
> exile from both England and Rome, this precocious woman who had
> written plays as a child began life very much in the setting of the
> Yorkshire recusant community: hiding Jesuits, knowing men who ran with
> Guy Fawkes, and eventually striving to turn her version of the Poor
> Clares into an English missionary effort.  Working mostly on the
> Continent, she shaped a role for herself and her followers that drew
> ecclesiastical censure; misled by Urban VIII whom she though had sided
> with her cause, travelling across central and Eastern Europe,
> befriended by Emperor Ferdinand II, and muzzled by the Bill of
> Suppression of 1629.  Though her schools enrolled as many as 465 girls
> in Vienna alone, at their high point, she was an outcast, imprisoned
> or forcibly enclaustrated at Angerkloster, though eventually released
> and free to return to England in time to meet Queen Henrietta Maria in
> 1639.  Wallace finds the influence of romance literature in the lives
> of Mary, as well as in her own works--a visionary idea of a calling in
> the world, of female companionship and disciple-ship, of a flight from
> suitors and father so she could be free "to do her own thing."  She
> just was determined to stand outside so many of other people's
> boundaries, if need be.  Her labors "to marry the intensity of
> religious enclosure with travel" (191) put her beyond the pale as
> defined by many different forms and figures of authority.  It is both
> inspiring and sad.
>
> Elizabeth Cary ("Vice Queen of Ireland") was much more in the
> mainstream of English society, though her 1626 conversion to Rome
> alienated her husband, lord deputy of Ireland.  This dramatic and
> drastic move would, her mother lamented (though perhaps incorrectly),
> be catastrophic for her and for all those around her.  Since four of
> her daughters eventually converted and two of her sons flirted--in and
> out, with Rome--Elizabeth's decision clearly paved the way for
> children who were to follow her spiritual lead.  And the daughters, as
> nuns on the Continent, not only remained steadfast (unlike their
> brothers) but were responsible for writing and thereby preserving the
> life of their mother that keeps her contribution to the team of
> "strong women" on the table.  But unlike the other women we have seen,
> Elizabeth "of Drury Lane" stayed much in London society; no commitment
> to the cloister, no withdrawal from the pleasures of (Protestant)
> society.  She knew the court and was known at the court and she
> enjoyed the theater, though she also tried to set up an industrial
> enterprise (badly underfunded) so Irish women could work and have an
> independent life and income.  She was an enthusiast, what her
> daughters saw "their mother's <i>violence</i> as a quality essential
> to a life begetting a <i>Life</i>," (i.e., their biography of her)
> (241).
>
> This presentation of the four women is enhanced to many illustrations,
> many from the Wallace camera.  We see Marienkirche as viewed from
> Gdansk, the guildhall at King's Lynn, Elizabeth Cary's tomb at
> Tanfield, among other glimpses into the world they inhabited.  The
> bibliography is impressively large and wide-ranging.  Wallace goes to
> great lengths to chart and elucidate the currents of interest in his
> women--in the publication of their lives, in the editing of what they
> themselves wrote, and in their appearance in fiction and non-fiction
> over the centuries.  He loops them together, when possible; fictitious
> paths, crossing over the years, as well as genuine interest by the
> later ones in the earlier ones, as they could know of them.  If the
> separate pilgrimages of these women do not strike a sympathetic chord
> in the reader (or the reviewer), the question of how and why they
> could generate and exhibit so much enthusiasm seems a reasonable
> question.  What impulses drove Dorothea to punish her own body?
> Perhaps the answer is the same ones, or much like those, that pushed
> Margery Kempe on her relentless, insightful, and self-pitying journey
> (both in a physical and a spiritual-psychological sense).  Why did
> Mary Ward choose such an individualized and difficult path to get to
> Rome?  And perhaps strangest of all, why did Elizabeth Cary go that
> way, or at least part of that way?  In turning students to a study of
> medieval and early modern life a question to pose is to what extent
> were they like us, to what extent did they differ.  Wallace's
> impressively presented case studies certainly point to the relevance
> of this question.
>
>
>
>


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


> The Medieval Review
> https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/3631
> 

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