Simone Wagner gives a working paper on ‚The provost / abbot as father, the abbess as mother – punishment and gender‘

One chapter of my dissertation deals with gender-specific discourses shaping the authority of superiors in collegiate churches. In this paper I’ve focused on the discourse of motherly love and lenity in punishment. After summing up the current state of research the paper traces the discourse a) in statutes of the collegiate churches (i.e. internal normative documents) and b) in conflicts with civic authorities (the mayor and city council). The last section analyses how abbesses dealed with gendered expectations and if they could subvert them.

Lenity and severity were not gendered binarily. Male superiors also were supposed to be clement. Nevertheless, they could defy expectations of lenity more easily than abbesses. Only the authority of abbesses was attacked fundamentally by accusing them that they punished too severely. Civic authorities did attack abbesses comparatively harshly by applying gendered discourses. However, citizens weren’t necessarily more misogynist than other medieval actors. Urbanity did influence the abbesses’ authority indirectly. It increased contact between the members of collegiate churches, citizens as well as serfs of the collegiate church and thus opportunities to control abbesses.

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