MWF 2:30-3:20 pm
Cross-listed with HIST 492X
In this course we will examine Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, and Jewish women’s roles in European religious life during the late medieval and early modern periods, an era marked by dramatic religious change. We will explore the largely Catholic Europe of the Middle Ages as well as the astonishing period of religious creativity marked by the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation.
In the Reformation era, people’s seemingly private religious beliefs were held to be of public significance and thus constantly were subjected to governmental supervision. As “weaker vessels” women were believed to be particularly susceptible to religious “heresies.” Consequently, clerics and governmental officials often perceived women as potential threats to both political and religious harmony. Some women struggled to maintain illegal religions, such as Judaism in Spain or Catholicism in England. Others took on central roles in the establishment of entirely new religious communities such as the Quakers. Readings for this course will focus on women from across Europe as mystics, nuns, heretics, prophets, and/or preachers, and as victims and perpetrators of religiously motivated persecution and violence. Likewise, we will address the relationship between sexual politics and religious reform in witchcraft accusations and the effect of reformed morality on women’s work as prostitutes.
Texts may include:
Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe
Lyndal Roper, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg
Mary Laven, Virgins of Venice: Broken Vows and Cloistered Lives in the Renaissance Convent
Gluckel of Hameln, The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln
One 6-8 page paper
Four one-page discussion papers
Research paper (12-15 pages)