Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor's Name

Felice Lifshitz

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Hugh Elton

Third Advisor's Name

Hugh Thomas

Date of Defense



The double monasteries of seventh-century England have long been a problematic institution for historical interpretation. The purpose of this project is an attempt to place these institutions in relation to the ecclesiastical controversies of seventh-century England. Archbishop Theodore, who wished to reform the Anglo-Saxon church, challenged the role of the double monasteries. The attack on the double monasteries was instituted along gendered lines by evoking religious traditions that called into question the legitimacy of cooperation between monastic men and women. However, this position was not universally accepted. Aldhelm of Malmesbury’s De Virginitate provides a theological defense for the double monastery by constructing a competing notion of gender relations that emphasized cooperative relationships. The conclusions of this study show that there were competing conceptions of gender relations in seventh-century England and that active cooperation between the sexes in a monastic environment was sometimes considered to be possible, and even preferable.




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