Date of Award

2012

First Advisor

Colette van Kerkvoorde

Second Advisor

Maryann Tebben

Abstract

This thesis is an exploration of the visionary writings of Hildegard of Bingen and Elisabeth of Schönau, two twelfth-century German nuns. Though these women were contemporaries and Hildegard served as Elisabeth’s mentor, the styles of their texts, the nature of their visionary experiences, and their respective levels of popularity serve to differentiate them from one another. Hildegard’s spirituality, for instance, is characterized by her outspoken support of conventional Catholic doctrine, which was motivated by her unique access to the divine and personalized by her orthodox but peculiar theological interests. Elisabeth’s key traits, however, include her deep connection to monastic life and her struggle for legitimacy.

The first section of the thesis elaborates on the theological implications of Hildegard’s primary visionary text, highlighting both her general attachment to traditional doctrines and her occasionally idiosyncratic views. This discussion of Hildegard is continued in the second section, which examines her visionary persona and how it affected the way she interacted with the people around her. The thesis then turns to a comparison of Hildegard and Elisabeth, which addresses biased scholarly perspectives about Elisabeth in particular. Finally, I trace the development of Elisabeth’s visionary works with respect to her writings’ intended audience and purpose. The thesis concludes with a brief examination of how these women can be connected to other medieval authors in order to place them in the larger context of medieval theological and visionary literature.

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