Women’s History in the Age of Reformation: Johannes Meyer’s Chronicle of the Dominican Observance
Mediaeval Sources in Translation 58; Saint Michael’s College Mediaeval Translations. 2019. x, 306 pp. ISBN 978-0-88844-308-3 • Paper • $35.00
In his work The Book of the Reformation of the Order of Preachers, the Dominican friar Johannes Meyer (1422–1485) drew on letters, treatises, and other written records, as well as interviews, oral accounts, and his own personal experience, to record the blossoming of the Observant reform movement.
The result is this sprawling, eclectic, yet curiously intimate account of the men – but mostly of the women – who devoted their lives to revitalizing the Dominican order in southern Germany. With his reliance on their accounts and archives and respect for their intellectual abilities and spiritual resolve, Meyer’s treatment of medieval Dominican women provides a model from which today’s historians stand to learn.
The introduction contextualizes Meyer’s celebratory work within a more objective historical background; it is followed by a full translation, making this remarkable history available to English-speaking readers for the first time.
Claire Taylor Jones is Associate Professor of German and a Fellow of the Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame. Her scholarship explores the cultures, processes, and practices of piety and reform among Dominican nuns in late medieval Germany. She is the author of Ruling the Spirit: Women, Liturgy, and Dominican Reform in Late Medieval Germany (2018), as well as several articles and essays on broader aspects of religious culture and literature in late medieval Germany. Her research has been supported by the DAAD, the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
“Women’s History in the Age of Reformation provides access to one of the most vivid accounts of the Dominican reform movement of the fifteenth century. Written by the renowned theologian, historiographer, and confessor Johannes Meyer (1422–1485), the Buch der Reformacio Predigerordens serves as first-hand testimony of the Dominican Observance and conveys a vibrant impression of its enormous cultural impact. Claire Taylor Jones’s translation transfers the upper German dialect of the late medieval text into highly readable modern English while faithfully preserving the argument and the varying tone of Meyer’s chronicle. The introduction contextualizes the Book within its historical background, and explores the complex social, political, and economic shifts that inspired and shaped the Dominican Observance. Students and general readers will be amply served by its lucid and concise exposition, and scholars of late medieval religious culture will find among its pages important new insights and discoveries.” — Lydia Wegener, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften
“The Book of the Reformation of the Order of Preachers by the Dominican Johannes Meyer is a major work of German-language historiography from the later fifteenth century and a principal record of the Observant reform within the Dominican Order, specifically as it pertained to Dominican women, whose convents proliferated throughout southern Germany and were of such crucial importance to the history and survival of German literature in the later Middle Ages. Claire Taylor Jones’s lively and economical translation makes this work, in general somewhat misunderstood in the existing scholarship, available to a new and far wider audience than the professional Germanists to whom alone it has hitherto been accessible. It is equipped with an introduction that is perhaps the best concise induction into the history of the Dominican Observance in any language, and sets the figure of Meyer, and the women about whose lives he wrote, firmly on the scholarly stage.” — Stephen Mossman, University of Manchester
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