To one shut in from one shut out : anchoritic rules in England from the eleventh to the fourteenth century
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Anchoritic treatises, or rules for anchorites, have been accepted as one of the main sources for the analysis of the solitary life in the anchorhold since the beginning of modern anchoritic studies. However, it is certain that scholarship on the solitary life has been more inclined to focus on the anchoresses’ cells as social phenomena rather than as a personal experience and therefore focused on the place of hermits and anchoresses in the Catholic Church, their functions in medieval society and the systems founded to support them financially. This thesis analyses anchoritic guides written in England from eleventh to fourteenth centuries to observe the changes in the attitudes of the authors towards their primary audiences and by this way concerns itself with the life in the anchorhold and the possible changes in the meaning and basic elements of the solitary religious pursuit for both the authors and the primary audience of the anchoritic rules. By a close analysis of the images, motifs and some highly important themes of the texts such as enclosure and virginity the thesis aims to find out the shifts in the discourses of the authors and comments on the possible reasons for these changes. The thesis in the end reaches the conclusion that the regulations for the life of an anchoress were shaped around the general tendencies and contemplative trends of the period, as well as the personal inclinations of the advisors. Therefore it rejects the idea that the anchoritic life was a static, standard one, showing no sign of change and reform over the centuries.