This unit explores the meaning of Christian spirituality using the writings of women throughout history. Emphasis will be placed on the historical context of the primary sources used, the struggles of women in coming to find their own voices within their contexts, and their specific literary genres. This study aims to bring the reader to an appreciation of both the significance of these writings for their own times, as well as their continuing relevance to our life and mission in the Christian Church today.

Unit code: CH9215Y

Unit status: Approved (Major revision)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Church History

Delivery Mode: Blended

Proposing College: Yarra Theological Union

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Learning outcomes


Outline the elements that identify Christian Spirituality particularly in relation to women’s writings throughout history.


Articulate the historical context within which selected women communicate Christian spirituality throughout history.


Identify key features of Christian spirituality within women’s writings.


Interpret a range of literary genres used by women writers in Christian History.


Describe how women did or did not find their voice through their writings in the context of the Church of their times


Discuss the implications of the understanding of these texts for ministry in the contemporary Christian church.


Demonstrate the critical and creative tension between an understanding of historical texts in their original context and an appreciation of their contemporary value

Unit sequence

The Unit is an elective within the disciplines of Church History and Spirituality. There are no pre-requisites.


The unit will consist of Lectures, Tutorials and discussion forums all delivered in a Seminar style (whether face to face or online) so that students can interact with the ideas presented, engage with other students and their reflections and ideas and develop skills in critique, debate and practical application.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Bennett, Judith M., and Ruth Mazo Karras, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, 1st ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Castelli, Elizabeth A. Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making. New York: Columba University Press, 2004.
  • Day, Dorothy. The Long Loneliness. NY: Harper Collins, 2009.
  • Finnegan, Mary Jeremy. The Women of Helfta: Scholars and Mystics. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1991.
  • Harris, K. ed. Illumined by God: Essays on Medieval Monastic Women. Croydon, Vic: Benedictine Union of Australia and New Zealand, 2000.
  • Meville, Gert. The World of Medieval Monasticism: Its History and Forms of Life. Collegevilee, MI: Liturgical Press, 2016.
  • Rumsey, Patricia M. Women of the Church: The Religious Experience of Monastic Women. Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Columba, 2011.
  • Schulenberg, Jane Tibbets. Forgetful of her Sex: Female Sanctity and Society: 500-1100. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
  • Smelik, Klaas A. D. et al., eds. Spirituality in the Writings of Etty Hillesum. Proceedings at the Etty Hillesum Conference at Ghent University. November 2008. Leiden: Brill, 2011.
  • Sullivan, John. Edith Stein: Essential Writings. New York: Orbis Books, 2002.
  • Tyler, Peter and Edward Howells, eds. Teresa of Avila: Mystical Theology and Spirituality in the Carmelite Tradition. London: Routledge, 2017.
  • Ward, Benedicta, trans. Sayings of the Desert Fathers:The Alphabetical Collection. Cistercian Studies Series, vol. 59. Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1984.
  • Wheeler, Bonnie, ed. Listening to Heloise: The Voice of a Twelfth-Century Woman. Basingstoke, Hampshire: MacMillan, 2000.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Portfolio of 5 Tutorial Exercises of 300 words each

1500 20.0
Tutorial Paper/Seminar Paper 2000 30.0
Essay 4000 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Maggie Kappelhoff on 22 Sep, 2020

Unit record last updated: 2021-06-07 08:43:49 +1000