Monday, February 20, 2012

Minnesota professor receives funding to research medieval religious women in Germany

In the past year, Jennifer Deane, associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota Morris, has received two grants: the University of Minnesota Grant-in-Aid-of-Research and a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, which fund her research on the “beguines” or lay religious women of medieval Germany. The grants have enabled her to make several trips to archives and libraries in Germany, and to share ideas and research findings with European colleagues.

For years, Deane has been passionate about studying the lay religious women of medieval Europe often known as “beguines”, whose hundreds of independent communities were mainly centered in the Low Countries, the Rhine region, France, and German-speaking lands. Beguines were not nuns, but single laywomen who gathered in pious households and observed a chaste and humble lifestyle in some ways similar to that within a monastery. However, they were also deeply embedded in local communities, had strong connections to secular and religious authorities, and provided charitable service such as prayer and teaching children. Despite their modest and innocuous existence, beguines’ semi-religious status drew inquisitorial attention in the fourteenth century, distorting their image to this day—for those who have even heard of them.

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