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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2008

E 322 • Birgitta, Hildegard and Margery

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35210 MWF
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
WAG 420
Straubhaar, S

Course Description

The life and writings of Saint Birgitta of Sweden, fourteenth-century visionary, religious reformer and pilgrim, will be examined and compared with her predecessor Hildegard of Bingen (Germany) and her successor Margery Kempe (England). Social and historical contexts for all three visionary women will be explored in depth, particularly the factors behind Birgitta's emerging as such an authoritative voice, both political and religious, within the milieu of fourteenth-century Europe. Other related figures, such as Julian of Norwich, Christina of Markyate, Christina Mirabilis, Angela de Foligno, Jeanne d'Arc and Catherine of Siena may be visited. We will also explore varieties of spirituality and spiritual thinking including: anchorism and asceticism; Marian piety and Goddess-imagery; virginity and female creativity; and bridal imagery. Any theoretical framework - religious; scientific; theological; medical; archetypal; or any other - will be allowed. No single orthodoxy or heterodoxy should become primary in our investigations: all may have a voice (and it need not be a consistent one). We will try to allow the past to speak for itself, always realizing that we, the readers/listeners/watchers, will necessarily apply some kind of "spin" based on our own backgrounds.

Two things to remember when you investigate the lives and thought of people of the past: 1. They were vastly different from us; and 2) They were uncannily like us. Both 1) and 2) are entirely true.

Grading Policy

Quizzes on Reading (on most days when readings are due): 10 %
Two six-page reaction papers or position papers, 15% each = 30 %
In-class peer review activities on these papers: 10 %
Three one-page film reports, 5 % each = 15 %
One three- to five-page group project (groups of 3-4): 15 %
One six-page research paper: 20 %


Birgitta of Sweden: Life and Selected Revelations, ed. Marguerite Tjader Harris.
St. Bride and Her Book, ed. & tr. Julia Bolton Holloway.
The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. & tr. B. A. Windeatt.
Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard's Theology of the Feminine, by Barbara Newman.
Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of Norwich, ed. & tr. by Elizabeth Spearing and A. C. Spearing.
Course Packet assembled by the instructor


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