Mirror of the Scholarly (Masculine) Soul: Scholastics, Beguines and Gendered Spirituality in Medieval Paris

  • Tanya Stabler Miller
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


The medieval university was unquestionably a man’s world. In her recent study of masculinity at the medieval university, Ruth Karras has argued that the absence of women at the university was ‘the most salient feature with regard to masculine identity’.1 Studies of the medieval university, which rarely mention women, seem to support this view. The university appears as a world without women where scholars asserted their masculinity not by impressing and dominating women, but by demonstrating their superior intellectual abilities over their peers in the disputation.2 Competition with other clerics and a sense of superiority over the rest of society were particularly intense among theologians at the University of Paris. As Ian Wei has argued, by the thirteenth century, masters of theology at the University of Paris developed a distinct group identity emphasizing their theological expertise, placing themselves at the apex of an intellectual hierarchy and claiming an authority that to some degree challenged that of major prelates.3 Similarly, Sharon Farmer has shown that theologians constructed a ‘hierarchy of masculinities’, arguing for the superiority of intellectual labor over the manual labor performed by uneducated men.4


Pastoral Care Thirteenth Century Masculine Identity Religious Woman Pastoral Responsibility 
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© Tanya Stabler Miller 2010

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  • Tanya Stabler Miller

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