A Comparative Study of Three Manuscripts of the Rule of St. Benedict for Women

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A Comparative Study of Three Manuscripts of the Rule of St. Benedict for Women

By John E. Crean, Jr.

Vox Benedictina: A Journal of Translations from Monastic Sources, Vol 10.1 (1993)

Introduction: While the majority of vernacular renditions of the RB were cast in the original masculine mould, at least three mediaeval German versions were not. They are, in chronological order: The Oxford Rule from the fourteenth century; the Berlin Rule from the fifteenth; and the Altenburg Rule, precisely dated 1505. Each version was, to greater or lesser degree, adapted for women religious living under the RB. The present study concentrates on the extent of feminisation evidenced by each version, both intratextually and intertextually, with reference to the Latin original. Since Oxf omits certain RB chapters, this comparative study will limit itself to those relevant chapters common to all three versions. Since this study focuses on substantive feminisation, the Prologue and Chapter Two have been selected. “Substantive feminisation” sets aside a consideration of the more mechanical aspects of regenderisation, e.g. substitutions of “sister” for “brother,” “abbess” for “abbot,” “she” for “he,” etc. The substantive issues in the Prologue and Chapter Two are: 1) the extent and consistency of feminisation; 2) the perceived and projected persona of the abbess; and 3) the innovative introduction of personae foreign to the RB.

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Sharan Newman