Commonplace Divinity: Feminine Topoi in the Rhetoric of Medieval Women Mystics
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This dissertation examines the works of five medieval women mystics—Hildegard of Bingen, Hadewijch of Brabant, Angela of Foligno, Birgitta of Sweden, and Julian of Norwich—to argue that these writers used feminine topoi, commonplace images of women symbolizing complex themes, to convey authority based on embodied experience that could not be claimed by their male associates. The lens used to study their works is rhetorical analysis informed by a feminist recuperative objective, one concerned with identifying effective rhetorical strategies useful to many women and men who have traditionally been denied speech, rather than with women's entrance into traditional rhetorical canons. In addition, the project deliberately engages scholarship by critics whose work has been informed by postcolonial, gender, and queer theories. This preference allows an exploration of the ways in which legitimized language becomes unstable and permeable, permitting members of oppressed and suppressed groups to usurp the authority of dominant discourse, and of historically situated rhetorical practice as the result of cultural and textual negotiations of gender.
Cedillo, Christina (2011). Commonplace Divinity: Feminine Topoi in the Rhetoric of Medieval Women Mystics. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from