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Voices in Dialogue

Voices in Dialogue

Reading Women in the Middle Ages

Edited by Linda Olson and Kathryn Kerby-Fulton

Using a dialogue format, contributors to this collection of essays outline key issues in the cultural history of medieval women. Many of the essays in this volume provide compelling evidence that women in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages achieved an accomplished form of literacy, and became actively involved in literary networks of textual production and exchange. These essays also present new research on questions of the literacy and authorship of historical women. In so doing they demonstrate that medieval women, like many medieval men, did not read and write in isolation, but were surrounded and assisted by both male and female colleagues.

The issue of women’s ministry is another key theme addressed in this volume. Contributors examine the conditions under which women’s spiritual leadership could extend to male-designated roles and mixed audiences. Several essays also address the ways in which late medieval religious women, though hampered by severe official legislation, managed to appropriate to themselves a surprising range of supposedly forbidden ecclesiastical roles.

Voices in Dialogue challenges the historical and literary work of modern medieval scholars by questioning traditionally accepted evidence, methodologies, and conclusions. It will push those engaged in the field of medieval studies to reflect upon the manner in which they conceive, write, and teach history, as it urges them to situate historical women prominently within the intellectual and spiritual culture of the Middle Ages.

Contributors: Alison Beach, David N. Bell, Alcuin Blamires, Giles Constable, Catherine Conybeare, Dyan Elliott, Margot Fassler, Genelle Gertz-Robinson, Stephen Jaeger, Steven Justice, Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Mary Jane Morrow, Barbara Newman, Linda Olson, Felicity Riddy, Elizabeth Schirmer, Fiona Somerset, Alfred Thomas, John Van Engen, Mark Vessey, David Wallace, Nicholas Watson, Katherine Zieman.

“This volume of essays approaches women’s cultural history through the intriguing and productive device of a dialogue between scholars of widely diverse approaches. . . . Because of its huge range of topics it will appeal to the widest spectrum of scholars and will be suitable for many kinds of courses.” —Karma Lochrie, Indiana University

“This is a groundbreaking volume in its approach to medieval women’s roles in the culture of literacy. It brings together a group of distinguished scholars who have entered into dialogue with each other about the crucial questions of what we can and cannot know of women’s learning, preaching, reading, and writing in the Middle Ages. The contributions presented here will be regarded as definitive explorations in the history of women’s literacy.” —Rita Copeland, University of Pennsylvania

Voices in Dialogue is a work of rigorous scholarship, wide-ranging, informative and challenging. The innovative structure of the volume, wherein scholars engage in dialogue with each other over texts and topics, emphasizes the fluid nature of textual interpretation and the vital importance of textual evidence. It encourages the emergence of diverse issues and conflicting opinions, something which seldom occurs in conventionally organized volumes. The very concept of dialogue implies that which is on-going; the essays in this volume challenge our secret conviction that somewhere out there in the fertile fields of Medieval Studies lies the grail containing the definitive answers to all our questions about the past. The dialogue—rather, the dialogues—initiated by this volume will continue to invigorate scholarship and academic discussion for many years.” —Rosalynn Voaden, Arizona State University

“At once authoritative and provocative, this rich volume is a summing-up of several decades of research and a historically and theoretically grounded basis for further development. Some of its exchanges and essays will become classics, while illuminating scholarship is everywhere offered over an impressive chronological range. In structuring the book as a series of dialogues, indeed, as a research conversation, Olson and Kerby-Fulton create a triumphantly appropriate presentation for a field that is the subject of so much modern scholarly desire and contestation.” —Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Fordham University

“Professors Olsen and Kerby-Fulton’s volume more than lives up to expectation. The unusual format allows contributors to open up immediate possibilities for discussion and creative research in a new way. Not simply a collection of papers, but a dialogue between scholars, it illustrates the multiplicity of voices, past and present, women’s and men’s, negotiating gender and society. Voices in Dialogue sets a new standard for the academic anthology of essays.” —Anne Savage, McMaster University

ISBN: 978-0-268-03717-8
544 pages
Publication Year: 2005

Linda Olson is professor of English at the University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia.

Kathryn Kerby-Fulton is Notre Dame Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of Books Under Suspicion: Censorship and Tolerance of Revelatory Writing in Late Medieval England (University of Notre Dame Press, 2006).

“[A] rich and diverse book. . . . The articles as a whole make clear that women were central to medieval writing: they wrote, they collaborated, they constituted an audience. And they were central to medieval religion as well, not just as an audience but also as shapers of the tradition. This shaping, of course, was possible at some moments more than others. It is the juxtaposition of the study of certain moments with the overview of women’s literary activity that makes this collection so worthwhile.” — American Historical Review

“[A] stimulating new collection of essays edited by Linda Olson and Kathryn Kerby-Fulton. . . . In their refusal to construct a grand narrative of reading and writing women in the medieval period, these challenging and eclectic essays will be essential for anyone interested in literacy and its implications.” — Times Literary Supplement

“The dialogue format of this work of sophisticated literary and historiographical analysis provides modern readers with the tools to engage directly with the authors’ findings, revealing the rich heritage of medieval female readers. Recommended.” — Choice

“. . . Several of the dialogues . . . provide marvelous big-picture discussions of medieval women that probably all medievalists should read and that would also be wonderfully suited for classroom use. The range and sheer excellence of the contributions means, most of all, that the collection will have enduring value for all who study medieval women, their communities, and their writings.” — Journal of English and Germanic Philology

“From late Roman women corresponding with St. Augustine, to nuns reading their Office, to 16th-century English women preachers, the book’s essayists and their respondents, a coterie of international scholars from several disciplines, analyze extant or indirect sources, and provide fascinating insights into the cultural lives of medieval women.” — Catholic Library World

" Voices in Dialogue is a lengthy and ambitious volume of essays and responses, the aim of which is to encourage an interrogation of traditionally accepted methodologies within scholarly discourse by placing groups of its contributors in direct dialogue with one another." — Journal of Ecclesiastical History

“The injustice of . . . women’s access to and participation in intellectual culture in the Middle Ages, is amply demonstrated in pieces that range, chronologically, from the patristic era to the Reformation and, geographically, from Bohemia to France, North Africa to England, although English topics play a larger role than those of any other single area.” — Studies in the Age of Chaucer

“Wide-ranging and rewarding, this is a volume which should be widely used, for its internal debates, and for its contributions to wider scholarly concerns. It continues the long-term project of reclaiming women’s voices, but is also a valuable contribution to the holistic reconstruction of the medieval literate and literary culture.” — The Heythrop Journal

“This collection of eleven impeccably edited studies demonstrates that from late antiquity to the 16th century, Christian/Catholic women, religious and lay, cloistered and secular, sought knowledge of God, shaped their lives by this knowledge, and undertook to impart their spiritual wisdom in active ministry. . . . This study focuses on six topics: women’s literacy, questions of authorship, women’s cultural relationships, and their homiletic, liturgical, and sacramental roles both within their conventual communities and in society generally.” — Theological Studies

“Contributions to the volume represent an important resource for new research in medieval cultural and textual history; its impressive lineup of contributors and its dialogic layout make this collection a demonstration of the responsive creative context in which these authors view their subjects.” — English Historical Review

“On balance, this [is] a finely produced collection with many accomplished contributions. It will reward readers’ exploration.” — Modern Philology

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Piers Plowman and the Poetics of Enigma

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Curtis A. Gruenler

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Voices in Dialogue

Reading Women in the Middle Ages


Edited by Linda Olson and Kathryn Kerby-Fulton

 Voices in Dialogue: Reading Women in the Middle Ages
Cloth Edition

Using a dialogue format, contributors to this collection of essays outline key issues in the cultural history of medieval women. Many of the essays in this volume provide compelling evidence that women in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages achieved an accomplished form of literacy, and became actively involved in literary networks of textual production and exchange. These essays also present new research on questions of the literacy and authorship of historical women. In so doing they demonstrate that medieval women, like many medieval men, did not read and write in isolation, but were surrounded and assisted by both male and female colleagues.

The issue of women’s ministry is another key theme addressed in this volume. Contributors examine the conditions under which women’s spiritual leadership could extend to male-designated roles and mixed audiences. Several essays also address the ways in which late medieval religious women, though hampered by severe official legislation, managed to appropriate to themselves a surprising range of supposedly forbidden ecclesiastical roles.

Voices in Dialogue challenges the historical and literary work of modern medieval scholars by questioning traditionally accepted evidence, methodologies, and conclusions. It will push those engaged in the field of medieval studies to reflect upon the manner in which they conceive, write, and teach history, as it urges them to situate historical women prominently within the intellectual and spiritual culture of the Middle Ages.

Contributors: Alison Beach, David N. Bell, Alcuin Blamires, Giles Constable, Catherine Conybeare, Dyan Elliott, Margot Fassler, Genelle Gertz-Robinson, Stephen Jaeger, Steven Justice, Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Mary Jane Morrow, Barbara Newman, Linda Olson, Felicity Riddy, Elizabeth Schirmer, Fiona Somerset, Alfred Thomas, John Van Engen, Mark Vessey, David Wallace, Nicholas Watson, Katherine Zieman.

“This volume of essays approaches women’s cultural history through the intriguing and productive device of a dialogue between scholars of widely diverse approaches. . . . Because of its huge range of topics it will appeal to the widest spectrum of scholars and will be suitable for many kinds of courses.” —Karma Lochrie, Indiana University

“This is a groundbreaking volume in its approach to medieval women’s roles in the culture of literacy. It brings together a group of distinguished scholars who have entered into dialogue with each other about the crucial questions of what we can and cannot know of women’s learning, preaching, reading, and writing in the Middle Ages. The contributions presented here will be regarded as definitive explorations in the history of women’s literacy.” —Rita Copeland, University of Pennsylvania

Voices in Dialogue is a work of rigorous scholarship, wide-ranging, informative and challenging. The innovative structure of the volume, wherein scholars engage in dialogue with each other over texts and topics, emphasizes the fluid nature of textual interpretation and the vital importance of textual evidence. It encourages the emergence of diverse issues and conflicting opinions, something which seldom occurs in conventionally organized volumes. The very concept of dialogue implies that which is on-going; the essays in this volume challenge our secret conviction that somewhere out there in the fertile fields of Medieval Studies lies the grail containing the definitive answers to all our questions about the past. The dialogue—rather, the dialogues—initiated by this volume will continue to invigorate scholarship and academic discussion for many years.” —Rosalynn Voaden, Arizona State University

“At once authoritative and provocative, this rich volume is a summing-up of several decades of research and a historically and theoretically grounded basis for further development. Some of its exchanges and essays will become classics, while illuminating scholarship is everywhere offered over an impressive chronological range. In structuring the book as a series of dialogues, indeed, as a research conversation, Olson and Kerby-Fulton create a triumphantly appropriate presentation for a field that is the subject of so much modern scholarly desire and contestation.” —Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Fordham University

“Professors Olsen and Kerby-Fulton’s volume more than lives up to expectation. The unusual format allows contributors to open up immediate possibilities for discussion and creative research in a new way. Not simply a collection of papers, but a dialogue between scholars, it illustrates the multiplicity of voices, past and present, women’s and men’s, negotiating gender and society. Voices in Dialogue sets a new standard for the academic anthology of essays.” —Anne Savage, McMaster University

ISBN: 978-0-268-03717-8

544 pages

“[A] rich and diverse book. . . . The articles as a whole make clear that women were central to medieval writing: they wrote, they collaborated, they constituted an audience. And they were central to medieval religion as well, not just as an audience but also as shapers of the tradition. This shaping, of course, was possible at some moments more than others. It is the juxtaposition of the study of certain moments with the overview of women’s literary activity that makes this collection so worthwhile.” — American Historical Review

“[A] stimulating new collection of essays edited by Linda Olson and Kathryn Kerby-Fulton. . . . In their refusal to construct a grand narrative of reading and writing women in the medieval period, these challenging and eclectic essays will be essential for anyone interested in literacy and its implications.” — Times Literary Supplement

“The dialogue format of this work of sophisticated literary and historiographical analysis provides modern readers with the tools to engage directly with the authors’ findings, revealing the rich heritage of medieval female readers. Recommended.” — Choice

“. . . Several of the dialogues . . . provide marvelous big-picture discussions of medieval women that probably all medievalists should read and that would also be wonderfully suited for classroom use. The range and sheer excellence of the contributions means, most of all, that the collection will have enduring value for all who study medieval women, their communities, and their writings.” — Journal of English and Germanic Philology

“From late Roman women corresponding with St. Augustine, to nuns reading their Office, to 16th-century English women preachers, the book’s essayists and their respondents, a coterie of international scholars from several disciplines, analyze extant or indirect sources, and provide fascinating insights into the cultural lives of medieval women.” — Catholic Library World

" Voices in Dialogue is a lengthy and ambitious volume of essays and responses, the aim of which is to encourage an interrogation of traditionally accepted methodologies within scholarly discourse by placing groups of its contributors in direct dialogue with one another." — Journal of Ecclesiastical History

“The injustice of . . . women’s access to and participation in intellectual culture in the Middle Ages, is amply demonstrated in pieces that range, chronologically, from the patristic era to the Reformation and, geographically, from Bohemia to France, North Africa to England, although English topics play a larger role than those of any other single area.” — Studies in the Age of Chaucer

“Wide-ranging and rewarding, this is a volume which should be widely used, for its internal debates, and for its contributions to wider scholarly concerns. It continues the long-term project of reclaiming women’s voices, but is also a valuable contribution to the holistic reconstruction of the medieval literate and literary culture.” — The Heythrop Journal

“This collection of eleven impeccably edited studies demonstrates that from late antiquity to the 16th century, Christian/Catholic women, religious and lay, cloistered and secular, sought knowledge of God, shaped their lives by this knowledge, and undertook to impart their spiritual wisdom in active ministry. . . . This study focuses on six topics: women’s literacy, questions of authorship, women’s cultural relationships, and their homiletic, liturgical, and sacramental roles both within their conventual communities and in society generally.” — Theological Studies

“Contributions to the volume represent an important resource for new research in medieval cultural and textual history; its impressive lineup of contributors and its dialogic layout make this collection a demonstration of the responsive creative context in which these authors view their subjects.” — English Historical Review

“On balance, this [is] a finely produced collection with many accomplished contributions. It will reward readers’ exploration.” — Modern Philology