Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Tachau, Katherine H.

Second Advisor

Berman, Constance H.

First Committee Member

Kamerick, Kathleen C.

Second Committee Member

Ehrstine, Glenn

Third Committee Member

Hochstrasser, Julie B.


Thirteenth-Century women engaged in educational activities within their chosen communities, as did men. Yet, traditional scholarship has claimed women were not active in teaching theology because they did not leave behind theoretical works nor hold public teaching offices. I argue that if we expand our view of education beyond familiar structures, titles, and specific textual content, we find there were many more individuals engaged in teaching and learning than appear at first glance. We also discover their teaching within existing texts. Recent scholars have successfully demonstrated the participation of women in manuscript copying and editing, traditionally seen as male activities; others have investigated alternate ways that help us better understand medieval ways of knowing as well as how women expressed what they knew. My dissertation, Teaching Caritas: Reintegrating Women's Voices into Thirteenth-Century Theological Education, takes these reassessments one step further and locates women and their texts within educational venues more generally associated with men. It seeks to reintegrate some of the many unheard voices into the dialog through a direct comparison of texts written by men and women in the thirteenth century. In my analysis, I show how both entered into the conversations regarding one theological subject, that of caritas (charity or love, in English). Caritas, from the Greek agape and eros, was a subject important to Christian thought and works; therefore, theories regarding it appear in numerous texts written by both men and women.

New approaches to the study of medieval women have drastically changed the historical landscape over the last fifteen years. Feminist scholars have shown that women's practices cannot simply be added into the narrative of men's history; rather, women's very presence in history changes the narrative. Scholars have revised patterns depicting male-to-female influence in monastic reform movements, explaining how women actively engaged in those movements. Scholars of literature and rhetoric have demonstrated that medieval women used their own voices to speak, and how their voices were silenced only during subsequent centuries as dominant educational institutions narrowed their canonical and professional focus. Not surprisingly, when we pick up medieval women's texts and listen to their voices we hear original insights on theological and philosophical issues - whether in Latin or in the vernacular.

My project takes up two of these women's texts and finds common ideas that they and men's texts contain. I have chosen to focus on four authors writing within the Episcopal jurisdiction of Cologne: Albertus Magnus, Beatrice of Nazareth, Hadewijch of Brabant, and Meister Eckhart. They wrote in Latin or the vernacular for the benefit of their readers. By the thirteenth century there were a number of terms for caritas in both Latin and in the vernacular languages. This synonymous nature of caritas makes possible an analysis such as mine, which crosses genre, gender and language. These religious women and men learned various theories regarding the essence of caritas, and all knew (or knew of) certain techniques used to initiate visionary events. They were able to learn and then teach their thoughts and techniques because of the connection caritas provided between the knowing soul and the divine mind. Finally, although much of our educational history has been intellectual history, there was no one dominant or correct method of teaching in the thirteenth century. By bringing these aspects to light, my work will help women's voices re-enter the historical documentary of education.


caritas, education, medieval, women


v, 239 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 225-239).


Copyright © 2010 Dauna Marie Kiser

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