Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 1954
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Edsall , Mary Agnes.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: True Anchoresses are Called Birds: Asceticism as Ascent and the Purgative Mysticism of the "Ancrene Wisse"
  • Source: Viator 34, ( 2003): Pages 157 - 186.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Anchoresses Ancrene Wisse, Middle English Devotional Work Asceticism Birds in Literature Jesus Christ- Passion Mystics Penance Spirituality Women in Religion
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 13
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  • Abstract: This article engages in the longstanding debate over the mysticism of "Ancrene Wisse," an early thirteenth-century treatise for female recluses. With few exceptions, critics have answered the question in the negative, finding it difficult to fit its spirituality into a Pseudo-Dionysian model of mysticism defined by schema of spiritual ascent and experience of union with God. This article contends that study of patristic and monastic texts that employ images of birds and flight as metaphors for contemplative experience reveals that the Wisse author also uses bird imagery to describe the contemplative lives of the anchoresses for whom he writes. Furthermore, the way that the bird imagery resonates with crucifixion imagery fuses the two, teaching that the penitential suffering of the anchoritic life enables contemplative flight and unites the anchoresses with Christ crucified. In "Ancrene Wisse," asceticism and penance are ascent and union, hence what this article calls a purgative mysticism. [Reproduced from the journal website: http://brepols.metapress.com/content/121213/?p=afdbc79947a4444b9739ff05942fde63&pi=0]
  • Author's Affiliation: Bowdoin College
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2003.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00835897
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