Book Series Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts, vol. 27

Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue

Virginia Blanton, Veronica O'Mara, Patricia Stoop (eds)

  • Pages: 415 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:27 b/w, 8 col., 6 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2015

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-54922-4
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-55005-3
  • E-book
  • Available

This collection of essays, the second in an integrated series of three and  focused on the literacies of nuns in medieval Europe, brings together specialists working on diverse geographical areas to create a dialogue about the Latin and vernacular texts nuns read, wrote, and exchanged from the eighth to the mid-sixteenth centuries.


"The two volumes that have appeared so far are marvelous ones. They are consistently solid reassessments of nun’s literacies and the association of such women with both practical literacy and book culture. The third volume promises to be so as well. Together the series revolutionizes our thinking about nuns’ literacy; there will no longer be any excuse to cite Eileen Power on this. These volumes and the more than fifty articles included within all three, along with insightful introductions, full bibliographies and lists of manuscripts, useful indices, many illustrations and even some color plates, are impressive publications. More importantly is their major achievement in totally changing what we know about nuns’ literacies! Brilliant!" (Constance H. Berman, in: Analecta Cisterciensia 65 (2015) 392 – 410)

“This is an important collection and an important series for those interested in medieval women, religious communities, literacy, and textual engagement throughout the Middle Ages. Any reader interested in these topics is likely to find stimulating and engaging work here. (…) As a whole, these essays demonstrate a thought-provoking range of approaches to the study of texts, literacy, and women's religious communities (…) One hopes that this collection, as well as its predecessor and eventual successor, will stimulate a great deal of new scholarship in these areas.” (Michelle Herder, in The Medieval Review, 2016.10.14)

“The volume is admirable as a work of art, with beautifully reproduced colour plates of manuscripts from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries and, especially, one of an eleventh-century Gospel Book’s stunning front cover. The work is a treasure for any library.” (John Beston, in Parergon, 33/1, 2016, p. 199)

« On a là un livre très riche et stimulant, qui couvre toutes les périodes du millénaire médiéval (…) » (Th. Brunner, dans Scriptorium Bulletin Codicologique, LXXI, 2017, p. 71)

“Though the book will obviously appeal most to specialists interested in women religious, the emphasis on community encourages the reader to think beyond literacy as a quality that an individual might develop or perform, and to view literacy as a necessarily collaborative practice.” (Kirsty Day, in Speculum, 95/1, 2020, p. 201)


The present volume is the second in a series of three integrated publications, the first produced in 2013 as Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Hull Dialogue. Like that volume, this collection of essays, focused on various aspects of nuns’ literacies from the late seventh to the mid-sixteenth century, brings together the work of specialists to create a dialogue about the Latin and vernacular texts that were read, written, and exchanged by medieval nuns.

It investigates literacy from palaeographical and textual perspectives, evidence of book ownership and exchange, and other more external evidence, both literary and historical. To highlight the benefits of cross-cultural comparison, contributions include case studies focused on northern and southern Europe, as well as the extreme north and west of the region. A number of essays illustrate nuns’ active engagement with formal education, and with varied textual forms, such as the legal and epistolary, while others convey the different opportunities for studying examples of nuns’ artistic literacy. The various discussions included here build collectively on the first volume to demonstrate the comparative experiences of medieval female religious who were reading, writing, teaching, composing, and illustrating at different times and in diverse geographical areas throughout medieval Europe.



Educating the Sisters

Leoba and the Iconography of Learning in the Lives of Anglo-Saxon Women Religious, 660–780 — HELENE SCHECK AND VIRGINIA BLANTON

Collaborative Literacy and the Spiritual Education of Nuns at Helfta — ULRIKE WIETHAUS

From Reading to Writing: The Multiple Levels of Literacy of the Sister Scribes in the Brussels Convent of Jericho — PATRICIA STOOP

Her Book-Lined Cell: Irish Nuns and the Development of Texts, Translation, and Literacy in Late Medieval Spain — ANDREA KNOX

Nuns Making their Letters

Literacy in Neapolitan Women’s Convents: An Example of Female Handwriting in a Late Fifteenth-Century Accounts Ledger — ANTONELLA AMBROSIO

Step by Step: The Process of Writing a Manuscript in the Female Convent of Vadstena — NILS DVERSTORP

Nuns and Writing in Late Medieval England: The Quest Continues — VERONICA O’MARA

Visualizing Meaning

Implications for Female Monastic Literacy in the Reliefs from St. Liudger’s at Werden — KAREN BLOUGH

The Visual Vernacular: The Construction of Communal Literacy at the Convent of Santa Maria in Pontetetto (Lucca) — LORETTA VANDI

Outside the Mainstream: Women as Readers, Scribes, and Illustrators of Books in Convents of the German-Speaking Regions — ANNE WINSTON-ALLEN

Engaging with Texts

Líadain’s Lament, Darerca’s Life, and Íte’s Ísucán: Evidence for Nuns’ Literacies in Early Ireland — MAEVE CALLAN

What Icelandic Nuns Read: The Convent of Reynistaður and the Literary Milieu in Fourteenth-Century Iceland — SVANHILDUR ÓSKARSDÓTTIR

Daily Life, Amor Dei, and Politics in the Letters of the Benedictine Nuns of Lüne in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries — EVA SCHLOTHEUBER

A Web of Texts: Sixteenth-Century Mystical Culture in the Arnhem Sint-Agnes Convent — KEES SCHEPERS

Literary Agency

Courtly Habits: Monastic Women’s Legal Literacy in Early Anglo-Saxon England — ANDREW RABIN

Making Their Mark: The Spectrum of Literacy among Godstow’s Nuns, 1400–1550 — EMILIE AMT

The Personal and the Political: Ana de San Bartolomé’s Version of the Discalced Carmelite Reform — DARCY DONAHUE



Index of Manuscripts, Archival Documents, and Incunabula

Index of Texts

Index of Convents

Index of People