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Medieval Single WomenThe Politics of Social Classification in Late Medieval England$
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Cordelia Beattie

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199283415

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199283415.001.0001

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The Single Woman in Penitential Discourse

The Single Woman in Penitential Discourse

Chapter:
(p.39) 2 The Single Woman in Penitential Discourse
Source:
Medieval Single Women
Author(s):

Cordelia Beattie (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199283415.003.0003

This chapter contends that ‘single woman’ was a useful category in a religious discourse concerned with sexual sin and penance. The focus here is on pastoral manuals that use the category in their discussions of the sin of lechery (lust) and the opposing virtue, chastity, although these texts are situated in the wider context of preaching and the conduct of confession. The chapter explores what the category denotes, why it was included, and how it relates to other categories such as ‘virgin’, ‘widow’, and ‘whore’. While some texts did portray all sexually-active, unmarried women as whores, this chapter seeks to further debate by discussing why such women might themselves constitute a useful group in a penitential discourse.

Keywords:   single woman, penance, sexual sin, chastity, pastoral manuals, preaching, confession, virgin, widow, whore

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