EN MAGER HELGENINDES MAGT: Kvindelig mystik i middelalderen og feministiske genfortolkninger


  • Judith Asher


Judith Asher: The Power of a Skinny

Saint: Fasting Practices of Medieval

Female Mystics and Feminist Rereadings

In connection to the current Western ideal of

a thin and disciplined female body, historical


evidence has been sought of eating disorders

among women prior to medical diagnoses of

anorexia nervosa and bulimia. One of the

first well-documented instances of such

food-related body denial in Western history

is European medieval women saints, who in

the standard church hagiography have been

revered for the “miracle” of surviving on a

negligible intake of food, inedia miraculosa.

This relatively marginal phenomenon has

come to receive surprisingly broad attention;

the “holy anorexics” are now a standard

reference both in feminist scholarship and in

popular women’s literature. Contemporary

feminist interpretations of these saints tend

to encounter a fundamental ambiguity:

whether to pronounce the women mystics

victims of oppression or agents of liberation.

This article describes the self-imposed

starvation regime of medieval mystics with

reference to the idioms of eating and feeding

that informed their socio-historical context.

It then goes on to outline the interpretive

ambiguity current among feminist rereadings

and propose that this uncertainty

points to the inherently contradictory nature

of broad-based social gender definitions.





Asher, J. (1998). EN MAGER HELGENINDES MAGT: Kvindelig mystik i middelalderen og feministiske genfortolkninger. Tidsskriftet Antropologi, (39). Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/tidsskriftetantropologi/article/view/115174