Medieval Mystics

crosslisted as CH9121C

Mrs Clara Staffa Geoghegan
Not offered in 2020
This unit explores developments in mystical piety in the Middle Ages. The unit will pay particular attention to the Rhineland Mystics. It will also consider the religious response to urbanization as expressed by the Beguine Movement and the emergence of Mendicant friars. The development of particularly feminine responses of women to mysticism and relationship of women mystics to the wider church will also be examined. A seminar based unit, it emphasises the reading of texts and the interpretative process involved in a receptive and critical reading of Medieval sources. It also explores some contemporary approaches to the interpretation of Medieval women’s spiritual experience in a social and cultural context. Students will be required to read and to analyse primary sources from medieval writers including: Hildegard of Bingen; Mechthilde of Magdeburg; Margueritte de Porette, Gertrude the Great, Meister Eckhardt, Francis and Clare, Bonaventure, Catherine of Siena, Angela of Foligno. 




intensive mode: 9.00am – 3.30pm


  • one 7,000-word essay 100%


Sheldrake, Phillip. Spirituality and History: Questions of Interpretation and Method. London: SPCK, 1991.


Recommended translations of primary sources: Classics of Western Spirituality (Paulist).
  • Beer, Frances. Woman and Mystical Experience in the Middle Ages. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1992. 
  • Bynum, Caroline W. Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion. New York: Zone Books, 1992. 
  • Coakley, John W. Women, Men and Spiritual Power: Female Saints and Their Male Collaborators. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. 
  • Dronke, Peter. Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Critical Study of Texts from Perpetua (†203) to Marguerite Porette (†1310). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. 
  • Jantzen, Grace M. Power, Gender and Christian Mysticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 
  • McGinn, Bernard, ed., with the collaboration of Frank Tobin and Eluira Borgstadf. Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechtild of Magdeburg and Marguerite Porette. New York: Continuum, 1994. 
  • Nichols, John A., and Lillian T. Shank, eds. Medieval Religious Women. Cistercian Studies, 71, 72, 113. 4 vols. Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 1984–95. 
  • Sheldrake, Phillip. Spirituality and History: Questions of Interpretation and Method. London: SPCK, 1991.