RN 713 • HI 713 • STH TX 811
Gender in Medieval Christian Mysticism
The purpose of this assignment is to consider some of the relevant scholarship on a specific topic related to our course material and to think critically about it. The paper may focus on any individual mystic, group of mystics or related topic not addressed directly in the syllabus. You must clear your topic with me before you begin! See some ideas for topics below. The essay requires comparison and synthesis of a number of different perspectives and approaches to one historical problem. While similar to a book review, a bibliographic essay looks at more than one work on a given subject and discusses them in relation to each other. You won't be discussing each book in the same kind of depth as you would for a detailed book review, but you will need to read them carefully enough to determine each author's thesis, methodology, and unique contribution to the field. You will want to be thinking about how various authors approach the subject, what kinds of arguments they make, the methodology and sources they employ, trends in scholarly thought and how all this fits together to create a scholarly discourse on the subject. Before you begin to write this paper, you will need to search out relevant sources for your subject and begin to read through them. You must consider a minimum of six independent sources; you may use articles or essays as well as books, but at least four sources should be monographs (i.e., not edited collections). You are encouraged to to include works in languages other than English if appropriate.
Your paper should be fifteen to twenty pages, double-spaced with the usual margins (1” at top and bottom, 1.25” left and right). Please note that I offer you this wide page range to accommodate the needs of different topics and concerns. Fifteen pages may well be preferable to twenty; do not feel that more is necessarily better.
Please include a Bibliography in proper Chicago or MLA style.
Spelling, grammar and writing quality count as well as content.
Please see my plagiarism policy; if you have any questions about appropriate use and citation of sources, please ask.
Deadline, extensions, and late papers
Papers are due in the Blackboard Dropbox before the start of class on December 6. Extensions will be granted only if you consult with me by Thursday, December 2.
Papers that are late without an approved extension will lose one partial letter grade for each day they are late.
There are an infinite number of possible topics for your paper, and I encourage you to think broadly and creatively within the very large and fuzzy category of “Gender in Medieval Christian Mysticism.” You may want to give more attention to an issue covered briefly on the syllabus, or you may want to pursue something entirely different. I have collected here some ideas, and if any of them interest you, you should pursue and adapt them as you please. If nothing here seems right for you, you can identify your own project. If you have a vague inkling of something you’d like to pursue but aren’t sure where to take it or whether it is feasible, or if you need any other kind of direction/assistance, please set up an appointment to speak with me.
Some of the following topics obviously overlap. You may want to think of them as inspiration rather than as rigid categories:
•Artistic representations of visionary experience
•Gender in Jewish or Islamic mysticism in comparison with Christian
•Influence of Cistercian mysticism on vernacular literature (Quest for the Holy Grail, etc.)
•Communicating mystical experience: teaching, preaching, and social control
•Popular devotional practices and mystical experience
•The role of suffering in male & female mystical writing and practice
•The theme of poverty in male & female mystical writing and practice
•The theme of love in male & female mystical writing and practice
•Scripture in Latin and vernacular mystical writing
•Erotic imagery in mystical writing
•Ascetic practice and ascetic imagery in mystical writing
•Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: standards for male and female mystics
•Geographical expressions of mystical experience (e.g., English Mysticism, Rhineland Mysticism, Italian Mysticism, etc.)
•The Politics of Mysticism (canonization processes, patron saints, the economy of saintly cults, etc.)
•Biography of an individual mystic or comparison of two mystics
Guide to Web Resources on Medieval European Religion and History
Mugar Guide to Resources for Research in Religion
Mugar Guide to Electronic Resources for Research in Religion
Mugar Guide to Electronic Resources for Research in History
Return to Syllabus