Women on the move : representations of female pilgrims in medieval England and Ethiopia.

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Abstract

The most recognizable examples of female pilgrimage from medieval literature follow the trope of a vain and lustful woman whose travel is dangerous. This thesis examines the formation of this trope. The church did not always view women’s pilgrimage as problematic, and early medieval English representations were unconcerned with gender. As virginity became increasingly important, gender became increasingly significant for representations of pilgrims. Late medieval English sermons omitted representations of female pilgrims or portrayed them negatively, except in the case of mothers. Motherhood tempered the restrictions women faced as gender became more central in the West. It also provides a point of continuity with Christianity in Ethiopia. Motherhood empowered women in both England and Ethiopia, but Ethiopian sources placed less emphasis on gender and depicted women in a wider variety of roles. This demonstrates the need for scholarship to broaden its conception of medieval Christianity beyond the West.

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Medieval history. Women. Gender. Pilgrimage. Christianity. Religion. Ethiopia. Sermons. Saints' lives. Movement. Travel.

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