Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 3535
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Elliott , Dyan.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Seeing Double: John Gerson, the Discernment of Spirits, and Joan of Arc
  • Source: American Historical Review 107, 1 (February 2002): Pages 26 - 54.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): De Bono et Malino Spiritu, Latin Polemic Against Joan of Arc Discernment of Spirits, Determining Whether a Holy Person Was Inspired by Jesus Christ, or by the Devil Gerson, Jean, Theologian Joan of Arc, Saint Mystics Scholasticism Women in Religion
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: France
  • Century: 15
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: Dyan Elliott examines the theoretical and practical effect of the discourse of spiritual discernment--the ability to discern between divine and diabolical inspiration--for women in late medieval Europe. She maintains that an avid interest in spiritual discernment emerged in response to the rise of female mysticism and prophecy in the late fourteenth and eary fifteenth centuries, an era of considerable spiritual unrest. And she identifies John Gerson, the chancellor of the University of Paris, as one of the most important writers who attempted to use the discourse of discernment and the procedures of the Inquisition to contain female spirituality by bringing it under clerical control. However, Elliott reveals, when Gerson attempted to defend the divine inspiration of Joan of Arc, he was defeated by the very success of his earlier efforts because his positive assessment of Joan immediately spawned a negative counterpart. This development raised the possibility of two Joans: one divinely and one diabolically inspired. As a result, Elliott concludes, rather than providing a mechanism for distinguishing counterfeit from genuine spirituality, spiritual discernment led to a blurring of boundaries--a confusion that would continue to taint perception of female spirituality. Her article thus provides a vivid and concrete historical example of the incalculable effects of discourse. [Reproduced by permission of the American Historical Association.]
  • Author's Affiliation: Indiana University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00028762