The Solitary, Self Individuality in the Ancrene Wisse by Linda Georgianna - review by Santha Bhattacharji

Santha Bhattacharji

Spiritual Endeavour

The Solitary, Self Individuality in the Ancrene Wisse


Harvard University Press 169pp £11.55 order from our bookshop

The originality of Linda Georgianna’s The Solitary, Self is that it takes the Ancrene Wisse seriously as a highly integrated unity. The traditional view of this early thirteenth-century work is that part of it may have been added from another text, as certain sections have been considered of dubious relevance to the three anchoresses for whom it was written. The sections in question are those on temptation, confession and penance, which between them make up a third of the whole work. Ms Georgianna, however, shows that far from being an appendage, these sections are central to the author’s whole understanding of the solitary life.

She does this by entering with quite extraordinary sympathy and insight into the mind and situation of the anchoresses, and therefore into the teaching of the anonymous author. It is unusual, to say the least, to find a modern scholar responding with such sensitive understanding to the medieval preoccupation with

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