Gender and Mysticism Thesis: NOTES

My Lover, My God: The Role of Gender in the Mystical Theology of The Cloud of Unknowing

Written by Amy Goodloe
Copyright © 1993, 2008. All Rights Reserved
do not reproduce without permission


1. See especially the studies by Caldwell, Emery, Englert, Forman, Knowles, Minnis, Nieva, and Sitwell.

2. Clifton Wolters, trans., The Cloud of Unknowing.

3. Elizabeth Robertson, Early English Devotional Prose and the Female Audience.

4. See Robertson, passim

5. The Cloud-author describes the four “degres & fourmes of Cristen mens leuyng” in his first chapter (13-14).

6. As the Cloud-author explains: “The condicion of this werk is soche, that the presence therof abilith a soule for to haue it for to fele it. & that abilnes may no soule haue with-outyn it. The abilnes to this work is onyd to the selue werk, with-outyn departyng; so that who-so felith this werk is abil therto, & elles none” (69-70).

7. All references to the text are from the EETS edition, edited and introduced by Phyllis Hodgson. Although thorns and yoghs are used in the original text, I have replaced them in the paper with “th” and “y,” respectively.

8. See Riehle, pp.15-16. Riehle goes so far as to suggest that the Cloud could possibly have been written for a female audience (p.19).

9. Four of the common medieval assumptions about women’s innate capacities are presented in the following discussion; these and others are detailed in Robertson, especially in chapter 2.

10. See Robertson, chapter 2.

11. For an interesting discussion of medieval attitudes towards the feminine “guide,” see Joan Ferrante, Woman as Image in Medieval Literature.

12. Again, see Ferrante, especially p.38.

13. The Cloud-author also has this to say: “Bewar now, wreche, in this while with thin enemye; & holde thee neuer the holier ne the beter for the worthines of this cleping” (14).

14. Riehle, p.74; Minnis, pp.242-243.

15. See Caroline Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast and Fragmentation and Redemption.

16. Again, see Bynum; see also Petroff, pp.5-7 and passim.

17. Watson, pp.134-135.

18. Holmes, pp.54-61 and passim.

19. Riehle, p.68.

20. Gillespie, p.203.

21. Hodgson, lxiv.

22. Minnis, p.334 and passim.

23. The fourth possible pairing, cataphatic and speculative, is possible, but extremely rare.


Part I: The Free Gift of Contemplation

Part II: The Feminine Soul

Part III: An Anti-Masculine Text?

Part IV: Alone in the Crowd