Male Authors, Female Readers
Representation and Subjectivity in Middle English Devotional Literature
"Holy men despise women...and view them as foul and sticking dirt in the road," asserst the male author of the fifteenth-century Book to a Mother. Middle English devotional writings reflect shades of mysogony ranging from the blatant to the subtle, yet these texts were among the most popular literature know to the earliest generation of English women readers.
In the first book to examine this paradox, Anne Clark Bartlett considers why medieval women enjoyed such male-authored works as Speculum Devotorum, The Tree, The Twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost, and Contemplations on the Dread and Love of God. Demonstrating that these texts actually provided alternative—and more appealing—notions of gender than those authorized by the Church, Bartlett redefines women's participation in medieval culture in terms of far greater agency and empowerment than have generally been acknowledged.