Medieval Anchorites in Their Communities

Cate Gunn and Liz Herbert McAvoy (Editors) Medieval Anchorites in Their Communities (Studies in the History of Medieval Religion) D.S. Brewer, 2017


“Much of the research into medieval anchoritism to date has focused primarily on its liminal and elite status within the socio-religious cultures of its day. The anchorite has long been depicted as both solitary and alone, almost entirely removed from community and living a life of permanent withdrawal and isolation: in effect dead to the world. The essays in this volume, stemming from a variety of cross-disciplinary approaches and methodologies, lay down a challenge to this position, breaking new ground in their presentation of the medieval anchorite and other types of enclosed solitary as playing a central role within the devotional life of a whole range of complex and multifaceted communities: ones that were simultaneously synchronic and diachronic, physical and metaphysical, religious, secular, textual – and gendered. It therefore offers its readers a new way of understanding the operations of the solitary life in the Middle Ages and its interdependence with a whole array of communities, ultimately adding to our knowledge of how spiritual “aloneness” could be pursued ardently, even in the midst of communal interaction. Contributors: Diana Denissen, Clare Dowding, Clarck Dreishen, Cate Gunn, Catherine Innes-Parker, E.A. Jones, Dorothy Kim, Godelinde Perk, James Plumtree, Michelle Sauer, Sophie Sawicka-Sykes, Andrew Thornton OSB.”

See also:


Mari Hughes-Edwards Reading Medieval Anchoritism: Ideology and Spiritual Practices University of Wales Press, 2012

“This interdisciplinary study of medieval English anchoritism from 1080-1450, explodes the myth of the anchorhold as solitary death-cell, reveals it instead as the site of potential intellectual exchange, and demonstrates an anchoritic spirituality in synch with the wider medieval world.”


Liz Herbert McAvoy Medieval Anchoritisms: Gender, Space and the Solitary Life D.S. Brewer, 2011)

“Originating in the deserts of northern Africa in the early years of Christianity, anchoritism, or the enclosed solitary life, gradually metamorphosed into a permanent characteristic of European religiosity; from the twelfth century onwards, and throughout the middle ages, it was embraced with increasing enthusiasm, by devoted laywomen in particular. This book investigates the wider cultural importance of medieval anchoritism within the different religious landscapes and climates of the period. Drawing upon a range of contemporary gender and spatial theories, it focuses on the gender dynamics of this remarkable way of life, and the material spaces which they generated and within which they operated. As such, it unites related – but too often discrete – areas of scholarship, including early Christian anchoritism, anchoritic guidance texts and associated works, fourteenth and fifteenth-century holy women with close anchoritic connections, and a range of other less known works dealing with or connected to the anchoritic life.”





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