Mechthild von Magdeburg, the thirteenth-century mystic and visionary, adopted the position of holy woman favoured by God to record her visions, ecstacies, and religious teachings, in her single book, the Flowing Light of the Godhead. It deploys a rich array of literary strategies, from erotic lyricism to stern prophetic tones, to express her intimate experiences of God, her visions of Heaven, Hell and the coming millenium, and her criticism of the religious establishment. Since her rediscovery in the mid-nineteenth century, Mechthild has enjoyed increasing scholarly interest; interpretations of her work range from the strictly orthodox writings of nineteenth century theologians to those of modern feminist historians. In particular, the flood of critical response in the last decade attests to her contemporary relevance. This survey of the critical literature devoted to Mechthild offers a thorough analysis of reactions from the medieval period to the present day, and shows how differing preoccupations and concerns have coloured attitudes to her work.
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer Ltd