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Embodied Word

The Embodied Word

Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350–1700

Nancy Bradley Warren

In The Embodied Word: Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350–1700, Nancy Bradley Warren expands on the topic of female spirituality, first explored in her book Women of God and Arms, to encompass broad issues of religion, gender, and historical periodization. Through her analyses of the variety of ways in which medieval spirituality was deliberately and actively carried forward to the early modern period, Warren underscores both continuities and revisions that challenge conventional distinctions between medieval and early modern culture.

The early modern writings of Julian of Norwich are an illustrative starting point for Warren’s challenge to established views of English religious cultures. In a single chapter, Warren follows the textual and devotional practices of Julian as they influence two English Benedictine nuns in exile, and then Grace Mildmay, a seventeenth-century Protestant gentry woman, “to shed light on the ways in which individual encounters of the divine, especially gendered bodily encounters expressed textually, signify for others both personally and socio-historically.” In subsequent chapters, Warren discusses St. Birgitta of Sweden’s imitatio Christi in the context of the importance of Spain and Spanish women in shaping a distinctive form of early modern Englishness strongly aligned with medieval religious culture; juxtaposes the fifteenth-century mystic Margery Kempe with the life and writings of Anna Trapnel, a seventeenth-century Baptist; and treats Catherine of Siena together with the Protestant Anne Askew and Lollard and Recusant women. In the final chapters she focuses on the interplay of gender and textuality in women’s textual representations of themselves and in works written by men who used the traditions of female spirituality in the service of competing orthodoxies.

“In five interwoven chapters, Nancy Bradley Warren expands upon her distinguished previous work to explore the enduring symbolic and political importance of women’s religious models in the ‘secular’ as well as the ‘religious’ realms. By highlighting the interrelation of religious and political themes in a diverse group of women’s lives and writings, Warren brilliantly demonstrates how women shaped cultural connections between England and the Continent during these tumultuous centuries.” — Nicole Rice, St. John’s University

“A pioneering cross-period, cross-confessional, transnational study of religious Englishwomen and their extraordinary physical-textual corpus. Highly recommended.” — David Wallace, University of Pennsylvania

ISBN: 978-0-268-04420-6
352 pages
Publication Year: 2010

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Nancy Bradley Warren is professor of English at Florida State University. She is the author of Women of God and Arms: Female Spirituality and Political Conflict, 1380–1600 and Spiritual Economies: Female Monasticism in Later Medieval England.

“Warren expands upon themes developed in her Women of God and Arms: Female Spirituality and Political Conflict, 1380-1600 (2005). She addresses issues related to religion, gender, and breaching boundaries, among others. Key concepts are incarnational piety, epistemology, textuality, and politics. Warren writes with sincerity and passionate intensity. Her findings are both stimulating and provocative. . .”. — Choice

“Warren invites readers to trespass traditional boundaries of chronology, discipline, and geography, and charts enticing paths for others to follow. Moreover, the book raises new questions and opens up new spaces for interdisciplinary study, particularly that of gender, politics, and history.” — Renaissance Quarterly

“I highly recommend Embodied Word to all scholars and graduate students who are working with medieval women’s texts and spirituality. . . . Warren’s work is an excellent example of risking convention to unpack evidence of the ‘silenced,’ or worse, ‘dismissed.’ Extensive endnotes and index included.” — Magistra: A Journal of Women’s Spirituality in History

“Warren’s intriguing study joins a growing body of continuity-themed scholarship. . . . Warren’s study would be of most value to scholars interested in the ‘religious turn’ in literary studies, well-versed students of late medieval and early modern female embodiment as it relates to spirituality, and researchers working on a religious phenomenology. In the Embodied Word, such readers will find an appealing call to explore the historical and textual nature of sameness.” — Clio: A Journal of Literature, History and the Philosophy of History

“This is a splendid book: highly readable, engrossingly narrated, and altogether compelling . . . . Scholars concerned with issues of historical periodization and disciplinary organization, as well as specialists in English religious cultures of the period 1350 to 1700, will want to think about Warren’s arguments and in some way make them their own.” — Parergon

“Traces remarkable similarities in the devotional lives of women as diverse as Julian of Norwich and Grace Mildmay, Margery Kempe and Anna Trapnel. According to Warren, these similarities arise from the women’s common commitment to an ‘incarnational spirituality’ that blurs the boundaries between the sufferings of Christ, the somatic experiences of the contemplative, and corporate and even national bodies to which the contemplative belongs.” — Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900

“The power of Warren’s book to contest orthodoxies is perhaps best encapsulated in these remarks: it leaves the reader wanting to know how far posing the question from these new starting-points actually transforms old verdicts, as well as performing a valuable service in encouraging greater analytical precision in all researchers.” — English Historical Review

“Warren’s provocative work highlights previously unexplored aspects and influences of English female religiosity in medieval and early-modern Europe. . . . Warren succeeds in demonstrating the important connections between women’s physical/textual corpus and interwoven religio-political events of this era.” — The Catholic Historical Review

“The lives and texts encountered in The Embodied Word serve as beautiful, sometimes startling reminders of the significance of the word made flesh and challenge us to consider ways in which we may carry forward the often unsettling legacies of these female figures who refuse to stay inside the lines.” — Theology

“Nancy Bradley Warren transcends various disciplinary boundaries, both implicitly and explicitly, throughout her excellent book . . . The Embodied Word will be welcome by many scholars. Not only will those who study English women’s spirituality find it useful, but also anyone who studies the interplay between England and the Continent, Catholic and Protestant, and the medieval and the early modern.” — Review of English Studies

“Nancy Bradley Warren’s The Embodied Word boldly and often brilliantly examines an array of texts that express and depict female spirituality in the medieval and early modern periods. . . . Throughout this book, Warren’s skilled close readings provide a potent foundation for her broader claims about continuities in the representation of women’s religiosity across the centuries.” — Comitatus

“Throughout this book, Nancy Bradley Warren shows her skill as an English scholar in her thoughtful engagement with and analysis of primary texts. She focuses particularly on the writings of Birgitta of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, and Julian of Norwich. These texts attest both to the particularities of the female experience, while also offering a message that is more universal.” — Anglican and Episcopal History

“Warren’s book offers an insight into how medieval and early modern women used books to share the experiences of a dead man (and living God) in their own lives.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“Warren recasts medievalism itself innovatively as the reception of a medieval literary and religious culture doubly gendered as female, in its origins and in its use by women recipients—that is, as a culture both private and spiritually heterodox and characteristic of a feminized guidance outside masculinized and public conventions.” — Modern Philology

“As medievalists have become less defensive on this issue, it has become easier to explore the possibility that the Middle Ages can teach us something we didn’t know about selfhood; in this case, an exploration of the diffusions of personhood that is both traditional and radical.” — Medium Aevum

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The Embodied Word

Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350–1700

Nancy Bradley Warren

The Embodied Word: Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350–1700
Paper Edition

In The Embodied Word: Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350–1700, Nancy Bradley Warren expands on the topic of female spirituality, first explored in her book Women of God and Arms, to encompass broad issues of religion, gender, and historical periodization. Through her analyses of the variety of ways in which medieval spirituality was deliberately and actively carried forward to the early modern period, Warren underscores both continuities and revisions that challenge conventional distinctions between medieval and early modern culture.

The early modern writings of Julian of Norwich are an illustrative starting point for Warren’s challenge to established views of English religious cultures. In a single chapter, Warren follows the textual and devotional practices of Julian as they influence two English Benedictine nuns in exile, and then Grace Mildmay, a seventeenth-century Protestant gentry woman, “to shed light on the ways in which individual encounters of the divine, especially gendered bodily encounters expressed textually, signify for others both personally and socio-historically.” In subsequent chapters, Warren discusses St. Birgitta of Sweden’s imitatio Christi in the context of the importance of Spain and Spanish women in shaping a distinctive form of early modern Englishness strongly aligned with medieval religious culture; juxtaposes the fifteenth-century mystic Margery Kempe with the life and writings of Anna Trapnel, a seventeenth-century Baptist; and treats Catherine of Siena together with the Protestant Anne Askew and Lollard and Recusant women. In the final chapters she focuses on the interplay of gender and textuality in women’s textual representations of themselves and in works written by men who used the traditions of female spirituality in the service of competing orthodoxies.

“In five interwoven chapters, Nancy Bradley Warren expands upon her distinguished previous work to explore the enduring symbolic and political importance of women’s religious models in the ‘secular’ as well as the ‘religious’ realms. By highlighting the interrelation of religious and political themes in a diverse group of women’s lives and writings, Warren brilliantly demonstrates how women shaped cultural connections between England and the Continent during these tumultuous centuries.” — Nicole Rice, St. John’s University

“A pioneering cross-period, cross-confessional, transnational study of religious Englishwomen and their extraordinary physical-textual corpus. Highly recommended.” — David Wallace, University of Pennsylvania

ISBN: 978-0-268-04420-6

352 pages

“Warren expands upon themes developed in her Women of God and Arms: Female Spirituality and Political Conflict, 1380-1600 (2005). She addresses issues related to religion, gender, and breaching boundaries, among others. Key concepts are incarnational piety, epistemology, textuality, and politics. Warren writes with sincerity and passionate intensity. Her findings are both stimulating and provocative. . .”. — Choice

“Warren invites readers to trespass traditional boundaries of chronology, discipline, and geography, and charts enticing paths for others to follow. Moreover, the book raises new questions and opens up new spaces for interdisciplinary study, particularly that of gender, politics, and history.” — Renaissance Quarterly

“I highly recommend Embodied Word to all scholars and graduate students who are working with medieval women’s texts and spirituality. . . . Warren’s work is an excellent example of risking convention to unpack evidence of the ‘silenced,’ or worse, ‘dismissed.’ Extensive endnotes and index included.” — Magistra: A Journal of Women’s Spirituality in History

“Warren’s intriguing study joins a growing body of continuity-themed scholarship. . . . Warren’s study would be of most value to scholars interested in the ‘religious turn’ in literary studies, well-versed students of late medieval and early modern female embodiment as it relates to spirituality, and researchers working on a religious phenomenology. In the Embodied Word, such readers will find an appealing call to explore the historical and textual nature of sameness.” — Clio: A Journal of Literature, History and the Philosophy of History

“This is a splendid book: highly readable, engrossingly narrated, and altogether compelling . . . . Scholars concerned with issues of historical periodization and disciplinary organization, as well as specialists in English religious cultures of the period 1350 to 1700, will want to think about Warren’s arguments and in some way make them their own.” — Parergon

“Traces remarkable similarities in the devotional lives of women as diverse as Julian of Norwich and Grace Mildmay, Margery Kempe and Anna Trapnel. According to Warren, these similarities arise from the women’s common commitment to an ‘incarnational spirituality’ that blurs the boundaries between the sufferings of Christ, the somatic experiences of the contemplative, and corporate and even national bodies to which the contemplative belongs.” — Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900

“The power of Warren’s book to contest orthodoxies is perhaps best encapsulated in these remarks: it leaves the reader wanting to know how far posing the question from these new starting-points actually transforms old verdicts, as well as performing a valuable service in encouraging greater analytical precision in all researchers.” — English Historical Review

“Warren’s provocative work highlights previously unexplored aspects and influences of English female religiosity in medieval and early-modern Europe. . . . Warren succeeds in demonstrating the important connections between women’s physical/textual corpus and interwoven religio-political events of this era.” — The Catholic Historical Review

“The lives and texts encountered in The Embodied Word serve as beautiful, sometimes startling reminders of the significance of the word made flesh and challenge us to consider ways in which we may carry forward the often unsettling legacies of these female figures who refuse to stay inside the lines.” — Theology

“Nancy Bradley Warren transcends various disciplinary boundaries, both implicitly and explicitly, throughout her excellent book . . . The Embodied Word will be welcome by many scholars. Not only will those who study English women’s spirituality find it useful, but also anyone who studies the interplay between England and the Continent, Catholic and Protestant, and the medieval and the early modern.” — Review of English Studies

“Nancy Bradley Warren’s The Embodied Word boldly and often brilliantly examines an array of texts that express and depict female spirituality in the medieval and early modern periods. . . . Throughout this book, Warren’s skilled close readings provide a potent foundation for her broader claims about continuities in the representation of women’s religiosity across the centuries.” — Comitatus

“Throughout this book, Nancy Bradley Warren shows her skill as an English scholar in her thoughtful engagement with and analysis of primary texts. She focuses particularly on the writings of Birgitta of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, and Julian of Norwich. These texts attest both to the particularities of the female experience, while also offering a message that is more universal.” — Anglican and Episcopal History

“Warren’s book offers an insight into how medieval and early modern women used books to share the experiences of a dead man (and living God) in their own lives.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“Warren recasts medievalism itself innovatively as the reception of a medieval literary and religious culture doubly gendered as female, in its origins and in its use by women recipients—that is, as a culture both private and spiritually heterodox and characteristic of a feminized guidance outside masculinized and public conventions.” — Modern Philology

“As medievalists have become less defensive on this issue, it has become easier to explore the possibility that the Middle Ages can teach us something we didn’t know about selfhood; in this case, an exploration of the diffusions of personhood that is both traditional and radical.” — Medium Aevum

ReFormations: Medieval and Early Modern