Memory, Identity, and Women’s Representation in the Portuguese Reception of Vitae Patrum: Winning a Name

Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


This chapter focuses on the Portuguese reception of the Vitae patrum in order to analyze the long path women had to travel to acquire the dignity of a name, which happened mainly when they were repentant sinners. In their role as a potential or active source of temptation, women would generally be relegated to a secondary role; as such, it would make sense that they had no name. In contrast, when the narrative relates a woman’s faults and subsequent conversion and exemplarity, her anonymity is replaced by a name, which is a sign of recognition, as it could be memorized, quoted, or imitated.1 In a text composed by men, translated by men, and largely concerned with recounting the lives of men, the representation of women obviously echoes male perspectives. This makes the representation of women all the more striking when the text expresses wonder and respect toward those who are admitted to the utmost difficulties of desert life or, more rarely, when monks are subjected to female criticism.


Gender Identity Fifteenth Century Religious Life True Identity Religious Woman 
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© Margaret Cotter-Lynch and Brad Herzog 2012

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