Nina Steed

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Otto Gründler

Second Advisor

Dr. Larry Simon

Third Advisor

Tim Graham

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only


As the currents of philosophical debate in the twelfth through fourteenth centuries developed along the lines of the scholastics and their dialectic methods, another stream of spirituality gradually awakened within the minds of the Christian laity. Similar to the contemplative direction of monastic spirituality, this movement toward lay piety included mystical elements as well as eucharistic devotion. The development of lay piety, particularly among women, incorporated a strong emphasis on love as a primary component of spiritual reality. Experienced as a physical encounter with the "Other," love became the source, the means, and the goal of the spiritual quest.

The writings of Hadewijch of Antwerp, a female mystic of this period, are the object of this investigation. Her letters, visions, and poems have been compared with the writings of other mystics, both male and female, offering a glimpse into the theological developments and spiritual sensitivities that predominated within this social, cultural, and religious milieu. Although similar to other mystics, Hadewijch reaches beyond the boundaries of traditional Christian theology to achieve a radical expression of lay piety in which she describes an existential encounter with spiritual reality. In addition, a comparison is drawn between the writings of Hadewijch from the late fourteenth century and modern feminist writings, suggesting similar ideologies relating to the human experience and the quest for relationship.

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