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St. Anselm and the Handmaidens of God (USML) (Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy)

St. Anselm and the Handmaidens of God (USML) (Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy)

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Overview

St Anselm's surprising number of letters to women included all estates from young girls to mothers and mature wives or widows, retired women, nuns, abbesses, nobles, countesses and queens. To understand his views of, beliefs about and relationships with women, and whether he collected and edited his own correspondence is to be determined. This study argues that he did - that he both addressed real women and situations, and also represented ideals of particular types of women, of marriage, relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and students and teachers. In one sense the correspondence is an artful construct, and indeed a kind of autobiography, teaching by word and deed, by his own example, those who would come after him. It thus serves as a lens through which to discern his views of the ideal society and the roles of men and women within it. Anselm accords to women a surprising role of equality and power. His main political allies were women, and he granted the queen equality with king and archbishop. In the context of the budding twelfth-century Renaissance, Anselm sought to restore ideal models of the past, primarily St Gregory. In the process, Anselm took a major leap towards the twelfth-century attitudes of introspection, self-analysis, the discovery and valuing of the individual, and the use of logic and reason in these areas as well as in politics, law and theology. In Anselm's schema, the mother and the teacher emerge as the ultimate Handmaidens of God.

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