The Angel, the Adversary, and the Audience: Elisabeth of Schönau and the Negotiation of Spiritual Authority, 1152-1165
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This thesis examines the visionary writings of Elisabeth of Schönau, a nun of Schönau monastery, which was a double house in the diocese of Trier between 1152 and 1165. I argue that Elisabeth’s works dynamically engaged various religious audiences (monastic and clerical) in order to provide spiritual guidance to diverse types of people (monks, nuns, abbots, abbesses, and clerics). Elisabeth’s writings not only represent the self-reflection of a twelfth-century woman visionary, but also demonstrate the ways in which Elisabeth forged her spiritual authority by reacting to, and at times anticipating, the reception of her visions by her community. While Elisabeth rhetorically described herself as a passive receptor of divine knowledge, she actively worked to shape the practice of worship first within her monastic community and then, once her authority grew beyond Schönau, amongst a wider audience.