Dronke’s Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Supplement

In 1984, Cambridge University Press published Peter Dronke’s outstanding and influential book, Women Writers of the Middle Ages: a critical study of texts from Perpetua († 203) to Marguerite Porete († 1310). Scholarly reviews of Dronke’s book were laudatory, but with the criticism that he hadn’t focused narrowly enough on women. Unfortunately, these women writers still remain under-appreciated.

Dronke’s Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Supplement; or, Medieval Women Writers’ Loving Concern for Men, aims to increase appreciation for medieval women writers. It documents and explores medieval women writers’ compassionate, strong, and independent efforts to affirm and value men’s masculinity.  This supplement can help to make men students feel more welcomed in literature classes. It also shows the value of literary study to men and demonstrates that medieval women writers’ insights and imagination can help to improve men’s lives today.

The organization of this supplement follows the chapters in Women Writers of the Middle Ages. This supplement includes several articles on Marie de France. She deserves to be recognized and studied for her inspiring concern for men. A press release for this new book discusses the intellectual context of Dronke’s seminal work.

Chapter 1: From Perpetua to the Eighth Century

Chapter 2: Dhuoda

Chapter 3: Hrotsvitha

Chapter 4: Personal Poetry by Women: the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

Chapter 5: Heloise

Chapter 6: Hildegard of Bingen

Chapter 6: From Hildegard to Marguerite Porete


As this supplementary volume makes clear, medieval women writers, though few relative to men, vastly outperformed men in showing concern for men. Men are more likely than women to view other men as competitors or enemies. Women writers historically have done most of the work of speaking out for men. Unless men experience an awakening of self-consciousness, the welfare of men will continue to be in women’s hands.

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