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Title: Minnewater
Author: Griswold, Lisa
Advisor: McInerney, Maud
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of English
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2005
Abstract: The lay religious women’s movement of the Beguines – specifically in the Low Countries in the mid-thirteenth century - allowed women a space in which to exist at least partially independently from the pervasive male-dominated clerical and secular worlds. This historical episode, era and location are the background for the linguistic space of “Minnewater” in which the central characters navigate and put pressure on the masculine boundaries created for them. Each character has been uniquely affected by contemporary misogynistic discourse, which claims that the female body is so contaminated by its sexuality that it inhibits access to divinity. The women initially express anxiety caused by this discourse, as well as individual desire, through visionary relationships with Jesus. As each struggles with the trauma of her past, they collectively join to find a way to be female in a context that has abused, regulated, and restricted them. This change occurs as they establish physical relationships with one another, acceptance of their bodies and connection to a female spiritual figure. They ultimately access spirituality not through denying their bodies as the Church demands but through incorporating sexuality and physicality into a unique religious experience. Even though they manage to construct a place for themselves at the Beguinage, the male voice – specifically that of the priest and the Pope - continually edits, regulates and dictates their experience and visions. The story ends as the ever-present male authority looms over the joyous, generative space they have created.
Subject: Beguines -- Fiction
Subject: Misogyny -- Fiction
Subject: Women in Christianity -- History -- Middle Ages, 600-1500 -- Fiction
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Griswold, Lisa. "Minnewater". 2005. Available electronically from

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