This seminal work is the second volume of a widely praised study of the concept of woman in the history of Western philosophy. Sister Prudence Allen explores claims about sex and gender identity in the works of over fifty philosophers (both men and women) in the late medieval and early Renaissance periods.
Touching on the thought of every
philosopher who considered sex or gender identity between A.D. 1250 and 1500, The Concept of Woman
provides the analytical categories necessary for situating contemporary discussion of women in relation to men. Adding to the accessibility of this fine discussion are informative illustrations, helpful summary charts, and extracts of original source material (some not previously available in English).
Encyclopedic in coverage yet clearly organized and well written, The Concept of Woman
will be an invaluable resource for readers interested in a wide range of disciplines.
Jean Bethke Elshtain
— University of Chicago Divinity School
"Sister Prudence Allen's monumental work continues with this remarkable volume. There is no work to compare with hers in its systematicness, intellectual rigor, and scholarly integrity."
Catholic Historical Review
"This comprehensive volume comes as close to being an exhaustive treatment of what philosophers and theologians in the High Middle Ages of Christian Europe had to say about women as we are ever likely to get. . . An invaluable guide to all the philosophical thinking on gender difference in Christian Europe from 1250–1500."
Francis Martin, S.S.D.
— author of The Feminist Question
"Sister Prudence Allen's second volume of The Concept of Woman is an extremely important contribution in the effort to move from a rights-based feminism to one that is person-centered and addresses the question, 'Who is a woman?' Relying on primary sources, some of which are not often consulted, this study traces the emerging understanding of woman on the part of both women and men (often in dialogue) during the period from 1250 to 1500. While not ignoring the dark side of these centuries, this work in the history of philosophy follows the emerging consciousness of woman's identity as part of the increasing humanist awareness of the person's inner space. . . A careful and brilliant study."
W. Norris Clarke, S.J.
— Fordham University
"This carefully researched new volume is even more interesting and substantial than the first. It is of special importance because it lays out in rich detail the crucial turning point in the West from the dominance of the Aristotelian 'gender-polarity' concept of woman (the inferiority of woman to man both biologically and psychologically) to the emergence of the new 'gender-complementarity with equality' concept that developed in the newly arisen humanist schools of the Renaissance. . . The leading philosophers of the high Middle Ages, such as Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, are treated here with admirable insight and fairness. This volume will now become the essential reference work for understanding this important chapter in our Western culture."
— University of New Mexico
"An original and brilliant work of scholarship. Charting the emergence of a new ideology of sex/gender in early modern Europe, this book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the history of sexuality. Considering the 'woman question' and early gender theory as rooted in the rise of European humanism, Sister Prudence Allen analyzes the concept of woman in such important women writers as Mechtild of Magdeburg, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Christine de Pizan, Isotta Nogarola, Laura Cereta, and their canonical male contemporaries. The broad sweep and range of works, writers, and in-depth textual analyses make Sister Prudence's book essential reading for scholars in comparative European studies, women's history, and feminist theory."