A Companion to Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (fl. 960)

Contextual and Interpretive Approaches


Hrotsvit, a canoness in the German convent Gandersheim, wrote Latin poems, stories, plays, and histories during the reign of Emperor Otto the Great (962-973). She expresses a strong sense of authorial mission in letters, prefaces, and dedications. These personal writings, as well as her full literary corpus, are studied in twelve original essays by scholars from Europe and North America, who bring several perspectives to bear. Her historical roots are shown, both in her use of Christian literary tradition (e.g., the legend) and in her understanding of political forces shaping her time. Her strong spirituality emerges from vivid portraits not only of martyrs but also of men and women who question and doubt the Lord, while her openness to problems of sexuality, and of the need for women to realize their individuality and particular gifts, is surprisingly modern.

Contributors include: Walter Berscin, Katrinette Bodarwé, Jay Lees, Gary Macy, Linda McMillin, Florence Newman, and Lisa Weston
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Biographical Note

Phyllis R. Brown, Ph.D. (1979) in English, University of Oregon, is Associate Provost at Santa Clara University. She co-edited Hrotsvit of Gandersheim: Contexts, Identities, Affinities, and Performances (2004) and Women Writing Latin: From Roman Antiquity to Early Modern Europe (2002).

Stephen L. Wailes, Ph.D. (1968) in Germanic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University, is Professor Emeritus of Germanic Studies, Indiana University. Among his publications on medieval writing is Spirituality and Politics in the Works of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (Selinsgrove, 2006).

Review Quotes

‘’Most pleasantly, each contribution was written in an accessible fashion, without ever losing the high scholarly level. We can truly commend the editors for having created a marvelous foundation for future research on Hrotsvit.’’
Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona. In: Mediaevistik, 26, 2013, p. 339.

Table of contents

Editions, Translations, and Abbreviations
Canon and Titles
Chapter One: Hrotsvit and Her World
Stephen L. Wailes
Chapter Two: Hrotsvit and Her Works
Walter Berschin
Hrotsvit’s Mind and Spirit
Chapter Three: Hrotsvit in Context: Convents and Culture in Ottonian Germany
Jane Stevenson
Chapter Four: Hrotsvit’s Theology of Virginity and Continence
Gary Macy
Chapter Five: The Sacred Stories in Verse
Stephen L. Wailes
Chapter Six: Hrotsvit’s Plays
Stephen L. Wailes
Chapter Seven: The Necessity of Hrotsvit: Evangelizing Theatre
Michael Zampelli, S. J.
Chapter Eight: David rex fidelis? Otto the Great, the Gesta Ottonis, and the Primordia coenobii Gandeshemensis
Jay T. Lees
Chapter Nine: Hrotsvit’s Apostolic Mission: Prefaces, Dedications, and Other Addresses to Readers
Phyllis R. Brown
Chapter Ten: Virginity and other Sexualities
Lisa M.C. Weston
Chapter Eleven: Strong Voice(s) of Hrotsvit: Male-Female Dialogue
Florence Newman
Chapter Twelve: The Audiences of Hrotsvit
Linda A. McMillin
Chapter Thirteen: Hrotsvit and her Avatars
Katrinette Bodarwé
Contributor Biographies


All those interested in women writers, medieval Christian poetry and drama, reception and literary history, monastic history, and medieval theology

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