Seeing Double: John Gerson, the Discernment of Spirits, and Joan of Arc

by Dyan Elliott
Seeing Double: John Gerson, the Discernment of Spirits, and Joan of Arc
Dyan Elliott
The American Historical Review
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Seeing Double: John Gerson, the Discernment of Spirits, and Joan of Arc


SOCIAL AND POLITICAL UPHEAVALS frequently clear the way for the entrance of some of the most unlikely actors into public life. So it was that a series of crises facilitated the emergence of a cadre of prominent female mystics in late medieval Europe.' Not surprisingly, the visibility achieved by these women directly conflicted with the avowed aims of patriarchal institutions of the period. Over the course of the high and later Middle Ages, canon and civil law had acted in concert to restrict female initiative, even as the growth of official bureaucracies had gradually forced women out of the political arena." This trend was dramatically demonstrated in France, where in 1316 a Parisian assembly under Philip V sought to bar women from acceding to the crown altogether.> And yet, the triune disasters of the Black Death, the Hundred Years' War, and the papal schism created a vacuum in institutional authority into which female mystics and prophets would move. These women not only captured the imagination of the public but even won the confidence of popes and princes. Adversity does indeed make strange bedfellows.

The authority of these women depended on Christendom's conviction that they

Earlier versions of this article have been presented at the Cultural Studies and Medieval Studies programs of Rice University; the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Bristol; the Institute of Historical Research, London; and the 36th International Congress for Medieval at Kalamazoo, Michigan. I would like to thank these various audiences for their intelligent responses. I am also indebted to the anonymous readers of the AHR. But I am especially grateful for the careful readings of Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski and Paul Strohm. This article is dedicated to Leonard Cohen.

1 For background, see particularly Andre Vauchez, "Les pouvoirs informels dans l'Eglise aux derniers siecles du Moyen Age: Visionnaires, prophetes et mystiques," Melanges de l'Ecole francaise de Rome: Moyen Age (hereafter,MEFRM) 96 (1984): 281-93; Vauchez, "Sainte Brigitte de Suede et Sainte Catherine de Sienne: Le mystique et l'Eglise aux derniers siecles du Moyen Age," in Temi e problemi nella mistica femminile Trecento, 14-17 ottobre Convegni del Centro di Studi sulla Spiritualita Medievale, Universita degli Studi di Perugia (Todi, 1983), 229-48; Vauchez, The Laity in the Middle Ages: Religious Beliefs and Devotional Practices, Margery Schneider, trans. (Notre Dame, Ind., 1993), 219-36.

2 In Italy, for example, civil lawyers looked to canon lawyer Gratian in order to justify the husband's control of his wife's dowry. See Susan Stuard, "From Women to Woman: New Thinking about Gender c. 1140," Thought 64 (1989): 208-19.

3 See Continuatio Chronici Guillelmi de Nangiaco ann. 1316, in Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, vol. 20, MM. Danou and Nandet, eds. (Paris, 1840), 617. Note, however, that other chronicles date this meeting as 1315. The decision was confirmed in 1322 and 1328. See Andre Poulet, "Capetian Women and Regency: The Genesis of a Vocation," in Medieval Queenship, John Carmi Parsons, ed. (New York, 1993), 112. This exclusionary legislation would become implicated in the genesis of the Hundred Years' War when the question of woman's ability to transfer, if not wear, the crown arose. If it were conceded that women could transfer the crown, then Edward III of England would be the true king of France by his mother, Isabelle.

were not merely speaking in their own voices but that it was the voice of God which spoke through them.' Yet, as female mystical interventions gained in frequency, concern over the authenticity of these women's inspiration also grew. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, this concern eventuated in the flourishing of treatises devoted to distinguishing whether an individual was a genuine prophet inspired by God or an instrument of Satan-an ability generally referred to as the discernment of spirits in accordance with 1 Corinthians 12.10. Spiritual discernment had been a fervent area of inquiry in patristic times, when the individual souls of various Desert Fathers were menaced by the devil's multifarious traps. Although an individual's spirituality and his or her private revelations would continue to be the object of spiritual discernment, the reappearance of the fourteenth-century treatises was in response to Christendom's more public malaise."

The present study traces the evolution of spiritual discernment in the thought of one of its chief theorists and practitioners-John Gerson (d. 1429), chancellor of the University of Paris-and his efforts to develop a procedural/juridical response to the challenge of female prophecy. It then turns to Gerson's celebrated effort to apply the art of discernment in defense of Joan of Arc (d. 1431). Since Joan's personal revelations compelled her pivotal intervention in the Hundred Years' War, she in many ways epitomizes the potential of female mysticism for political mobilization. Finally, Gerson's defense of Joan, and the responses it provoked, represents the unpredictable and undesired results that arise from the practice of discernment. Far from providing a mechanism for distinguishing counterfeit from genuine spirituality, spiritual discernment emerges as an inadvertent abettor of confusion in categories.

Thus, in addition to chronicling the development of a central discourse in the later Middle Ages, this study also addresses a theoretical need by providing a concrete and historicized instance that illustrates how this specific discourse functioned. Spiritual discernment as envisaged by Gerson and his cohort seems to promise an enhancement of clerical control. Yet Gerson's inability to mobilize adequately the mechanisms of discernment in defense of Joan provides a striking demonstration of the ultimate impossibility for discourse to control or contain its own effects. The particularly volatile combination of intractability and unpredictable motility that characterizes the discourse of discernment is exacerbated by the nature of scholastic reasoning itself, in which every positive proposition is advanced on the back of its negative counterpart. This antiphonal structure to scholastic argument imbued it with a tacit potential for reversal. Indeed, as we shall see, an

4 See Barbara Newman, "Hildegard of Bingen: Visions and Validation," Church History 54 (1985): 163-75; Dyan Elliott, "Dominae or Dominatae? Female Mystics and the Trauma of Textuality," in Women, Marriage, and Family in Medieval Christendom: Essays in Memory of Michael M. Sheehan, C.S.B., Constance Rousseau and Joel Rosenthal, eds. (Kalamazoo, Mich., 1998), 47-77. Newman has recently shown that even a female demoniac, who similarly ventriloquizes on behalf of a supernatural authority, can command a credible audience: "Possessed by the Spirit: Devout Women, Demoniacs, and the Apostolic Life in the Thirteenth Century," Speculum 73 (1998): 737-38, 753-58.

5 For a brief introduction to this genre, see Francois Vandenbroucke, "Discernement des esprits

III: Au Moyen Age," in Dictionnaire de spiritualite, Charles Baumgartner, et al., eds. (Paris, 1957), vol. 3, cols. 1254-66. Also see Rosalynn Voaden, God's Words, Women's Voices: The Discernment of Spirits in the Writing of Late-Medieval Women Visionaries (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1999), which particularly focuses on Bridget of Sweden and Margery Kempe. For the earlier period, see n. 54, below.

argument's rejected truths might coalesce into a shadow text or, more vividly, seem to leap off the page as a flesh and blood "double."

Finally, the discourse of spiritual discernment provides a particularly sympathetic lens for approaching a period during which the realm of the "authentic" was never more elusive. Evil doubles kept cropping up everywhere to jolt, confuse, and test the piety and fidelity of Christendom." This was painfully obvious on an international level. The papal schism, which had paralyzed Europe for almost forty years, was only resolved in 1417-although there were still two supernumerary popes some ten years later in Joan of Arc's time. Similarly, the Hundred Years' War was waged because there were two contenders for the French throne. Resurfacing within this time of ambivalence, the discourse of discernment sought a remedy for the disease of spiritual uncertainty. Yet the remedy proved worse than the illness it was intended to cure, precisely because the remedy acted as a carrier for the illness. Ultimately, the discourse of discernment, with its concomitant dissemination of the phenomena of reversal and doubling, would insinuate itself into the very core of medieval understandings of female spirituality.

THE FLOURISHING OF TREATISES on spiritual discernment in the fifteenth century is generally and, with some justice, associated with a "top-down" initiative to contain female spirituality-an orientation particularly associated with John Gerson." One of the main motives behind the most famous of his several treatises on this subject, On the Proving of Spirits, was to challenge the recent canonization of Bridget of Sweden (d. 1373) before the fathers of the Council of Constance in 1415.8 Still, his apprehension about female spirituality far antedated his challenge to Bridget, springing fully armed from his head in his very first treatise on discernment. On Distinguishing True from False Revelations, written in 1401, for example, already associates women with a dangerous immoderacy in asceticism. In particular, he evokes a nameless woman in Arras who, having rejected proper pastoral counsel,

6 This situation was eerily anticipated in Arthurian literature. Thus in the Prose Lancelot, King Arthur mistakes the False Guenevere for his true queen and almost consigns the latter to the stake. See Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, 3.74, 3.77-80, Samuel Rosenberg, trans. (New York, 1993),2: 245-48,261-79.

7 See Jo Ann McNamara, "The Rhetoric of Orthodoxy: Clerical Authority and Female Innovation in the Struggle with Heresy," in Maps of Flesh and Light: The Religious Experience of Medieval Women Mystics (Syracuse, N.Y., 1993), 24-27; Andre Vauchez, La saintete en occident aux demiers siecles du moyen age d'apreslesprocesde canonisation et lesdocuments hagiographiques (Rome, 1981),473-74. For general background on Gerson, see James Connolly, Jean Gerson: Reformer and Mystic (Louvain, 1928). Also see Palemon Glorieux, "La vie et les oeuvres de Gerson: Essai chronologique," in Archives d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du Moyen Age 25-26 (1950-51): 149-92.

8 See Res Constantienses, Hermann von der Hardt, ed. (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1698), vol. 3, fols. 15, 28-38. Henry of Langenstein's objections to Bridget's canonization, which appear in his Consilium pacis de unione ecclesiae of 1381, are likewise included in the materials for Constance. His basic objection was that the calendar of saints was fast becoming over-populated (Res Constantienses c. 18, vol. 2, fol. 56; also see Eric Colledge, "Epistola solitarii ad reges: Alphonse of Pecha as Organizer of Birgittine and Urbanist Propaganda," Mediaeval Studies 18 [1956]: 21). Bridget's canonization, originally proclaimed in 1391,was nevertheless confirmed by the council (Res Constantienses vol. 4, fols. 39-40). On Gerson's writings on discernment in the wider context of his views on church hierarchy and discipline, see B. J. Caiger, "Doctrine and Discipline in the Church of Jean Gerson," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 41 (1990): 389-407.


was starving herself to death." His is a tonally ugly rendition of the female spirituality associated with eucharistic feasting and ascetical fasting described in the work of Caroline Walker Bynum.!" Further, when arguing against the efficacy of miracles or revelations lacking in necessity, Gerson gives the example of a woman who frequently saw Christ flying through the air: "this sign of truth has shown, unless I am mistaken, that she was out of her mind."!' The two earlier treatises depict women as dangerously inclined to confuse carnal and spiritual love. To this end, he tells of a certain Marie of Valenciennes, better known to history as Marguerite Porete (d. 1310), who wrongfully exploited Augustine's dictum "Have charity, and do what you want."12On theProving ofSpirits, already alluded to above, identifies women as particularly likely to be led astray by the degree of their fervor. Such women develop inappropriate relations with their confessors under the pretext of frequent confession. Finally, they are possessed by an unsavory degree of curiosity, "which leads to gazing about and talking (not to mention touching)."13

But in his third treatise, On the Examination of Doctrine (1423), Gerson works with particular zeal to disqualify women altogether as appropriate arbiters of spiritual matters. Opening with a discussion of the various ecclesiastical bodies equipped to act as judges in matters of faith, he eventually turns to the gift of spiritual discernment. Although acknowledging that Augustine's mother, Monica, was possessed of the gift of discernment (as Augustine himself had ventured in the Confessions), Gerson cautions against any woman who claims this gift for herself.t" He further applies the apostolic interdict against female teaching to all forms of publication-oral or written.

Jerome blames men who, for shame, learn from women that women may teach men. What if someone of the female sex were reckoned to walk in the great and marvelous things above herself, to add daily vision upon vision, to report lesions of the brain through epilepsy, or petrification, or some kind of melancholy as a miracle, etc., to say nothing unless in the place of God without any mediation, to call priests her sons, to teach them the profession in which they were assiduously brought up ... One woman says that she was annihilated for a little while; another says that she was united in a union with God, more marvelous than the union Christ assumed with his own humanity.P

9 John Gerson, De distinctione verarum revelationum a falsis, in Oeuvres completes, Palemon Glorieux, ed. (Paris, 1960-73), 3: 42-43; trans. by Brian Patrick McGuire, in Jean Gerson: Early Works (New York, 1998), 343-44.

10 See Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley, Calif., 1987). 11 Gerson, De distinctione verarum revelationum a falsis, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 3: 51; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 356.

12 Gerson, De distinctione verarum revelationum a falsis, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 3: 51; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 356. On Gerson's invectives against the so-called Free Spirit movement, believed by orthodoxy to be antinomian in nature, see Robert Lerner, The Heresy of the Free Spirit in the Later Middle Ages (Berkeley, Calif., 1972), 164-77.

13 John Gerson, De probatione spirituum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 180, 184 (twice); trans. by Paschal Boland, in The Concept of "Discretio spirituum" in John Gerson's "De probatione spirituum" and "De distinctione verarum visionum a falsis" (Washington, D.C., 1959), 30, 36, 36-37.

14 John Gerson, De examinatione doctrinarum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 463. 1,5 Gerson, De examinatione doctrinarum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 467-68. When not otherwise stated, translations are mine.

Gerson trips lightly from Virgil's denunciation of woman's mutability, to apostolic warnings against young and curious women, to a denunciation of Eve, who, according to his reckoning, lied twice in her first utterance. All female verbiage should be scrutinized much more carefully than male, since both human and divine law unite in attempting to restrain women. The fact that no writing remains from the female greats of patristic lore, such as Paula or Eustochium, is but a testimony to these women's discretion.>

Given Gerson's eventual success at diagnosing a certain kind of spiritual duplicity or deception as a woman's problem, one must guard against the temptation to suppose that spiritual discernment was always directed against women. Apart from these three treatises devoted to the subject, Gerson touched frequently on spiritual discernment in his other writings without targeting either sex.!? Nor did his immediate predecessors, who wrote on this subject, stigmatize women. Their treatises remained quite abstract, refraining from the association of spiritual frailty with any particular individual, group, or gender. This remains true even for those who may have had legitimate cause to mistrust female religious fervor. Henry of Friemar, for example, writing in the early fourteenth century, was a member of the theological tribunal responsible for condemning the work of the mystic and alleged heretical leader of the so-called Free Spirit movement, Marguerite Porete (Gerson's Marie of Valenciennes). Yet in Henry of Friemar's treatise on spiritual discernment, he did not point the finger at women.l'' This is equally true for Henry of Langenstein and Peter d'Ailly, two of Gerson's teachers.'? In fact, d'Ailly, Gerson's particular friend and patron, was skeptical of all prophecies, since he believed that the Lord had withheld any specific teaching

16 Gerson, De examinatione doctrinarum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 467-68.

17 See, for example, De passionibus animae, written in either 1408 or 1409, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 15; De signis bonis et malis, in Oeuvres completes, 9: 162-66. This latter treatise, written sometime between 1410 and 1415, isolates the various indications of an individual's spiritual imbalance, such as the spurning of advice of a superior or excessive fervor, but without identifying women as the primary culprits.

18 See Henry of Friemar, Tractatus de quatuor instinctibus, in Insignis atque preclarus de deliciis sensibilibus paradisi liber: Cum singulari tractatu de quatuor instinctibus (Venice, 1498), especially concerning the third inner instinct, which is diabolically inspired (fols. 59 and following). Henry does, however, warn against the Satanic transformation of spiritual into carnal love, often taking the form of a person wanting private and excessively familiar conversation with a holy person (fol, 62r). He was one of the twenty-one theologians who condemned Marguerite's book, The Mirror of Simple Souls, in 1309. Moreover, he would be one of the six who played an important role in condemning the so-called heresy of the Free Spirit, which ostensibly drew its inspiration from Marguerite's book. See Paul Verdeyen, "Le proces d'inquisition contre Marguerite Porete," Revue d'histoire ecclesiastique 81 (1986): 50, 54. Also see Lerner, Heresy of the Free Spirit, 68-84. On Henry, see Jordan of Saxony, Liber Vitasfratrum 2.18, 2.22, Rudolf Arbesmann and Winfried Hiimpfner, eds. (New York, 1943), 1: 204-05, 238-39; and Clemens Stroick, Heinrich von Friemar: Leben, Werke, philosophisch-theologische Stellung in der Scholastik (Freiburg, 1954).

19 See Henry of Langenstein, De discretione spirituum, which was written in 1383. It has been edited and translated into German by Thomas Hohmann in Heinrichs von Langenstein "Unterscheidung der Geister": Lateinisch und Deutsch (Munich, 1977). As Hohmann notes in his introduction, Henry focuses more on the theory of discernment than on pastoral practice, hence not employing many examples or stories (p. 39). The treatise was not widely used until Dionysius the Carthusian wrote his treatise on spiritual discernment in 1433. However, Henry was an early critic of Bridget's canonization, but only in the context of the several new canonizations being proposed (the other two being men; see n. 8 above). For a brief account of his life, see the entry by Francois Vandenbroucke, Dictionnaire de spiritualite, 7, 1, cols. 215-19.

through which their validity could be assessed.s? Even so, the only nonbiblical prophet whom he consistently (and approvingly) punctuates his treatise with is Hildegard of Bingen (d. 1179).21 Indeed, elsewhere, d'Ailly posits that Hildegard foresaw and prophesied the papal schism.>

If one were attempting to build a case against Gerson as hostile to women, his regulatory efforts in the area of discernment could, perhaps, be put on a continuum with some of his other interventions on a symbolic level. For instance, Gerson's promotion of the cult of St. Joseph was described by David Herlihy as providing a proper head of the household to whom the Virgin Mary could submit.P And yet, such a portrayal of Gerson as hostile to women is rather simplistic. Indeed, there is evidence that could just as easily align him with the pro-woman camp. For instance, he was on the right side of the debate over the Romance of the Rose (that is, Christine de Pizan's side), even though he did not assume a pro-woman position.>' He also knew from experience that women had no monopoly over error, as his censorious response to the writings of the Flemish mystic John Ruusbroec (d. 1381) suggests.> Nor did he exhibit an a priori hostility to unregulated female spirituality,

20 Peter d'Ailly, De falsis prophetis, in L. E. du Pin's edition of Gerson's works, Opera omnia (Antwerp, 1706), vol. 1, col. 523. Francis Oakley reviews the question of Gerson's discipleship, instead suggesting that Gerson both anticipated and directed d'Ailly's concerns over mysticism-which reverses the traditional understanding of their relationship. Likewise, d'Ailly's On False Prophets is now understood to have been written between 1410 and 1415 rather than between 1372 and 1395 ("Gerson and D'Ailly: An Admonition," Speculum 40 [1965]: 74-75, 78-79). This would then mean that d'Ailly deliberately shied away from Gerson's tendency to target women, already apparent in the latter's

Distinguishing True from False Revelations.

21 Hildegard is particularly invoked for her prophetic anticipations of false prophets (see, for example, d'Ailly, De falsis prophetis, cols. 500, 505, 519). D'Ailly does, however, note, that false prophets make considerable headway in the home of silly women or effeminate men ("frequentant domos muliercularum, aut virorum effeminatorum"), following the lead of 2 Timothy 3. He also cites a prophecy of Hildegard's that further predicts the appearance of certain false doctors who will lead women into error (cols. 496-97).

22 Peter d'Ailly, Tractatus de materia concilii generalis (between 1402 and 1403), in Francis Oakley, ed., The Political Thought ofPierre d'Ailly: The Voluntarist Tradition (New Haven, Conn., 1964), app. 3, 315-16. Hildegard shares this distinction alongside her near contemporary, Joachim of Fiore. See Laura Smoller, History, Prophecy, and the Stars: The Christian Astrology of Pierre d'Ailly, 1350-1420 (Princeton, N.J., 1994), 96-97. According to Oakley, this treatise outlines a program of reform that would eventually be revised and presented at Constance as Tractatus super reformatione ecclesiae. Thus when Andre Vauchez says, in partial exculpation of Gerson, that he is much less severe on contemporary prophecy than his contemporaries Henry of Langenstein and Peter d'Ailly, he is not sufficiently taking the question of gender into account ("Saint Brigitte," 246). Vauchez plays the apologist for Gerson elsewhere as well, only this time John Nider is added to the mix-a comparison that has an implicit acknowledgement of the gender problem, since Nider's misogyny makes Gerson look tame (Vauchez, "Jeanne d'Arc et le prophetisme feminin des XIVe et XVe siecles," in Jeanne d'Arc: Une epoque, un rayonnement, Colloque d'histoire medieval, Orleans-s-Octobre 1979 [Paris, 1982], 167).

23 See David Herlihy, Medieval Households (Cambridge, Mass., 1985), 128-30. On the extent of these writings, see Palemon Glorieux, "Saint Joseph dans l'oeuvre de Gerson," Cahiers de josephologie 19 (1971): 414-28.

24 See especially John Gerson, Contre le Roman de la Rose, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 7, 1: 301~16; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 378-98. For Gerson's other interventions in this debate, see the introduction to Eric Hicks's edition, Christine de Pizan, Le Debat sur le Roman de la Rose (Paris, 1977), xlviii-lii.

25 See his two letters to the Carthusian, Barthelemy Clantier, written in 1402 and 1408, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 55-62, 97-104; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 202-10, 249-55. For an exhaustive analysis, see Andre Combes, Essai sur la critique de Ruysbroeck par Gerson, 2 vols. (Paris, 1948). See particularly Combes's discussion of Gerson's apprehension of demonic inspiration, which conveniently mixes the true with the false; 2: 337-39. Note, however, that Gerson nevertheless associates Ruusbroec's error

encouraging his sisters in their pursuit of an uncloistered Beguine lifestyle." More tellingly, he had written in support of two female mystic/visionaries: Ermine of Reims and Joan of Arc, occasions to which I will later return.

Gerson's ad feminam approach to spiritual discernment was multiply determined. What follows is an attempt to address these different levels of causality in order to understand the factors informing his efforts to contain female spirituality and the methods he used to achieve his ends.

First, one should look to the political arena. As intonated at the outset, turmoil and structural instability open the way to female speech. Indeed, when male mechanisms of power are at an impasse, it is even expected that women step forward. Medieval society had various tacit and expressed ways of acknowledging this phenomenon. Hildegard of Bingen had justified her prophetic mission by articulating how God, no longer able to rely on corrupt men, had actually turned to frail women as vessels for the divine word-a strategy that came to be widely used by later female mystics such as Catherine of Siena (d. 1380).27 The female voice, traditionally disparaged as one of woman's most sensually manipulative and dangerous tools, was gradually rehabilitated in the high Middle Ages by the pastoral clergy precisely so that wives would subtly persuade their otherwise intractable husbands to good works." The wildly popular tale of Melibee, best known to English audiences through Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, again demonstrates how, in the wake of male violence, Melibee's wife Prudence intervenes to interrupt the endless cycle of revenge.> As Paul Strohm and others have shown, the increased importance of the queen as mediator in the later Middle Ages was often a way out of the gridlock of high politics." Women's mystical intervention in the papal schism and the Hundred Years' War is a case in point." Gerson himself was very much preoccupied with the confusion of the times and quick to point to the failure in masculine leadership. He initially blamed the University of Paris for the prolonga

with the mystical heresy of the Free Spirit, hence covertly implicating female mystical impulses (Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 60; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 208). See Robert Lerner, "The Image of Mixed Liquid in Late Medieval Mystical Thought," Church History 40 (1971): 407-09.

26 The Mountain of Contemplation, written for Gerson's sisters in 1400, is discussed below. Compare his letter of 1399-1400 outlining daily devotions in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 14-17; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 156-60. See Brian Patrick McGuire, "Late Medieval Care and the Control of Women: Jean Gerson and His Sisters," Revue d'histoire ecclesiastique 92 (1997): 5-36.

27 See particularly Barbara Newman, "Divine Power Made Perfect in Weakness: St. Hildegard on the Frail Sex," in Medieval Religious Women, Vol. 2: Peaceweavers, John Nichols and Lillian Shank, eds. (Kalamazoo, Mich., 1987), 103-22. See Raymond of Capua's vita of Catherine of Siena in Acta sanctorum, April, vol. 3 (Paris and Rome, 1866), 884, as cited by Caroline Walker Bynum, "Women's Stories, Women's Symbols: A Critique of Victor Turner's Theory of Liminality," in Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York, 1991), 39.

28 See Sharon Farmer, "Persuasive Voices: Clerical Images of Medieval Wives," Speculum 61 (1986): 517-43.

29 On the origins of this tale as a response to the violence of Italian cities, see James Powell, Albertanus of Brescia: The Pursuit of Happiness in the Early Thirteenth Century (Philadelphia, Penn., 1992), esp. 77-86. For Albertanus's views on woman's role, see 5, 116-17.

30 See Paul Strohm, "Queens as Intercessors," in Strohm, Hochon's Arrow: The Social Imagination ofFourteenth-Century Texts (Princeton, N.J., 1992), 95-115. Also see Lois Huneycutt, "Intercession and the High Medieval Queen: The Esther Topos," and John Carmi Parsons, "The Queen's Intercession in Thirteenth-Century England," in Jennifer Carpenter and Sally-Beth MacLean, eds., Powerofthe Weak: Studies on Medieval Women (Urbana, Ill., 1995), 126-46; 147-77.

31 On the increase in prophecy with the papal schism, see Vauchez, "Les pouvoirs informels," 283.


tion of the schism, which he considered to be second in degree of culpability only to the papacy and the prelates.v He likewise averred that the devastation wrought by the Hundred Years' War was exacerbated by the sinful irresponsibility of the ruling class.P

But far from resulting in peace, female interventions often prolonged old or generated new difficulties. For instance, in 1384, Constance de Rabastens, hailing from the dangerous region of Albi, that former bastion of the Cathar heresy, posited that France might, in fact, be mistaken in its allegiance to the Avignon papacy. Convinced that the Roman contender was the true pontiff, Constance appealed to the count of Foix to put in the correct pope and lead King Charles VI in a conquest of the Holy Land.>' Bridget of Sweden fits into this bothersome profile-s-indeed, she surpasses her predecessors by siding with the English in the Hundred Years' War in two celebrated revelations."

Secondly, Gerson's ad feminam approach to discernment was also linked to his institutional aspirations for the university. Gerson had periodically acknowledged that illiterates, particularly women, often outstripped the learned cleric in contemplative gifts. Though prepared to grant this apparent advantage among the unlearned, it was nevertheless an ongoing source of consternation and even chagrin to him. Thus in his first letter attacking John Ruusbroec, Gerson acknowledges, "For even uneducated women and ignorant people who cannot read or write [etiam mulierculae et idiotae sine litteris] have the capacity of ascending to and obtaining this type of contemplation, assuming a simple faith. It is much easier for them than for men of great intelligence who are learned in theology."36 In a second letter on the same subject, however, Gerson recoiled from the thought that the intricacies of what he referred to as "mystical theology" should be vetted in popular forums. "Are [these matters] to be made public, now in writings, now in talk in the vernacular language among servants, uneducated youths, slow-witted old people, the uneducated crowd, broken-down old women, at one time in the marketplace, at another in the back streets? Are men who are quite learned, both in ability and training, to be kept from speaking about such matters because they are schoolmen?"37 His

32 See, for example, John Gerson, Pro unione ecclesiae, written in 1391, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 6: 11-12, 14-15. Note that by the time Gerson was made chancellor in 1395, the university had become more actively involved in initiatives to end the schism. See John Morrall, Gerson and the Great Schism (Manchester, 1960), 58-59; Connolly, Jean Gerson, 58-59, 169 and following.

33 See John Gerson, Cedule de la commission-a report either redacted or transmitted by Gerson, tentatively dated to 1411, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 10: 399-405 (in the supplement).

34 See Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, "Constance de Rabastens: Politics and Visionary Experience in the Time of the Great Schism," Mystics Quarterly 25 (1999): 147-68; Vauchez, "Jeanne d'Arc," 161-62. See Noel Valois, ed., "Les revelations de Constance de Rabastens et Ie schisme d'occident (1384-1386)," Annales du Midi 8 (1896): 241-78.

35 See Colledge, "Epistola solitarii," 31-33.

36 Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 61; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 208-09. He goes on to argue, however, that experience of God is insufficient to assess the merits of mystical writings. One additionally requires theological training. Also see his acknowledgment of women's special ability in Gerson, De mystica theologia practica, in Oeuvres completes, 8: 22-23; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 294; compare La Montaigne de contemplation, in Oeuvres completes, 7, 1: 16; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 75. Elsewhere, he relates reading about a woman whose veins were said to burst, expanding like newly fermenting wine without an outlet, when she heard a preacher speak of the soul's union with God (De mystica theologia speculativa, in Oeuvres completes, 3: 286-87). Gerson was probably reading Thomas of Cantimpre's Bonum universale de apibus 2.49.2 (Douai, 1627), 442-43.

37 Gerson's second letter against Ruusbroec, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 98-99; McGuire,

defensiveness on behalf of the scholastic prerogative was additionally colored by his desire to reform the university by promoting mysticism." To this end, he had begun lecturing on mysticism already in 1402 and writing scholarly treatises on the subject." Moreover, at the end of the Council of Constance, when his efforts to destabilize Bridget's reputation for sanctity proved unsuccessful, Gerson composed several treatises discrediting the sensory visions that were the cornerstone of female mysticism."

Thus Gerson was proposing something like a hostile male "takeover" of an area of considerable female .accomplishment-c-comparable to the way in which male artisans crowded women out of female-dominated crafts, once they became lucrative.v In this context, it is worth reiterating that his guidelines require an assessor of mystical phenomena to have the advantage of both practical experience and theological training. This set of requirements would, by necessity, exclude women, who were barred from the universities. Interestingly, the experiential criterion may very well have excluded Gerson, who never claims that he himself was the recipient of mystical experiences.P But the fact that he did not disqualify himself as a judge suggests that theological training is really what counted-even though this flies in the face of the apostolic designation of spiritual discernment as a gift of the spirit (1 Corinthians 12.10). Indeed, Gerson even posited that those entirely lacking in experience in mystical phenomena might make the best judges-a situation he likens to the superiority of the medical theorist over the practitioner or to the lot of a blind man whose enhanced powers of cognitive

Jean Gerson, 251. Gerson does, however, grant that the cleric is partially to blame: "Why is there, alas, such a paucity of contemplatives, even among learned and religious churchmen, indeed even among theologians, unless because scarcely anyone is able to bear being alone with himself long enough so that he can come to meditate?" De mystica theologia practica, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 8: 41; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 323.

38 See Palemon Glorieux, "Le Chancelier Gerson et la reforme de l'enseignement," in Melanges offerts aEtienne Gilson (Toronto, 1959), 285-98; Steven Ozment, "The University and the Church: Patterns of Reform in Jean Gerson," Mediaevalia et Humanistica, n.s., 1 (1970): 112-16; and Ozment, HomoSpiritualis:A ComparativeStudy oftheAnthropology ofJohannes Tauler,JeanGerson,andMartin Luther in the Context of Their Theological Thought (Leiden, 1969), 49-54. Also see Connolly, John Gerson, 207-10. Connolly notes that there is very little that is personal or original in Gerson's discussion, which is carefully written in line with Augustine, Bernard, and the Victorines.

39 See John Gerson, De theologia mystica lectiones sex, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 3: 250-92. Excerpts from this treatise are translated by McGuire, Jean Gerson, 262-87, and Steven Ozment, Jean Gerson: Selections from A deo exivit, Contra curiositatem studentium and De mystica theologia speculativa,

Textus minores, 38 (Leiden, 1969), 46-73.

40 See particularly John Gerson, De meditatione cordis, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 8: 77-84, esp. 83; and De simplificatione cordis, 8: 85-99, esp. 94. Both of these treatises were written at Constance in July 1417. By discrediting revelations that depended on images, Gerson was adhering to the traditional Augustinian hierarchy that ranked corporeal, imaginative, and intellectual vision in ascending order of excellence. Intellectual vision, that apprehended God directly, dispensed with images altogether. See Jeffrey Hamburger's analysis of the relation between images, the imagination, and female spirituality in Nuns as Artists: The Visual Culture of a Medieval Convent (Berkeley, Calif., 1997). Also see Chiara Frugoni, "Female Mystics, Visions, and Iconography," in Women and Religion in Medieval and Renaissance Italy, Daniel Bornstein and Roberto Rusconi, eds. (Chicago, 1996), 130-64.

41 Maryanne Kowaleski and Judith Bennett analyze this oft-repeated pattern. See "Crafts, Gilds, and Women in the Middle Ages: Fifty Years after Marian K. Dale," in Sisters and Workers in the Middle Ages, Judith Bennett, et al., eds. (Chicago, 1989), 11-25.

42 D. Catherine Brown thinks it unlikely that Gerson was himself a mystic. See Pastor and Laity in the Theology ofJean Gerson (Cambridge, 1987),205; compare McGuire's introduction, Jean Gerson, 21.


reasoning exist in inverse proportion to his visual impairment.P That no parallel claims were to be allowed for the purely experiential side is clear from Gerson's account of a woman-"a prophetess and a maker of miracles"-whom he met. In response to his question about how she knew that her spirit was annihilated and entirely recreated in the course of contemplation, she answered that she had experienced it-an answer that Gerson clearly regarded as so ludicrous as to not require further comment." In short, Gerson was training what Michel Foucault might describe as a "fellowship of discourse" animated by the "prodigious machinery of the will to truth with its vocation of exclusion."45 This team of professionals would be equipped to pronounce on the validity of female religious experience, with a view toward containment.

This position contradicts the more benign view articulated by D. Catherine Brown and others, who have argued that the fact that Gerson also wrote vernacular treatises on mysticism should be seen as a move toward democratization." Such a perspective respectfully echoes some of Gerson's own more reasoned assurances but at the cost of overlooking the harried denunciations of the forces of popularization afoot "among servants, uneducated youths, slow-witted old people, the uneducated crowd, [and] broken-down old women" quoted earlier.'? To construe Gerson's initiative primarily as a democratizing force for mysticism is to mistake the "inside" for the "outside." Mysticism was already democratized, already "out," as Gerson himself knew too well. Writing practical manuals for a laity that was rife with mystical impulses was parallel to the church's sacramentalization of marriage in the twelfth century-a power move that did not so much promote marriage as bring the laity more securely under ecclesiastical control. Gerson's strategy is already apparent in his Mountain of Contemplation of 1400, a vernacular treatise written for his sisters, in which he defends his decision to write such a treatisealmost as if the illiterate (that is, non-Latinate) female mystic was something rare that he was facilitating or even inventing." But it is certainly significant that this same treatise entirely omits the highest stage in the mystical journey, namely ecstasy or rapture, through which the soul is united with God, in contrast with his parallel Latin treatments.s? In short, Gerson's solicitude for the laity is at one with his suspicion and surveillance.

Thus far, I have attempted to identify the possible motives informing Gerson's prejudice against female mystical expression. The next four points focus on the methodological and ideological constructs that shaped the way in which this bias manifested itself. Of paramount importance are the mechanisms behind the

43 Gerson, De theologia mystica lectiones sex, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 3: 255; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 270-71. 44 This occurs in Gerson's second letter against Ruusbroec, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 102; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 255. See Lerner, Heresy of the Free Spirit, 166. 45 Michel Foucault, "Discourse on Language," appendix in Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge,A. M. Sheridan Smith, trans. (New York, 1972), 225, 220.

46 Brown, Pastor and Laity, 183-94; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 24; Connolly, Jean Gerson, 259-60.

47 Compare Gerson's later De examinatione doctrinarum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 469.

48 Gerson, La Montaigne de contemplation, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 7,1: 16; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 75. 49 Compare Brown, Pastor and Laity, 183. See Gerson's description of rapture in De theologia mystica lectiones sex, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 3: 282-83; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 282-84.

scholastic methodology. Abelard's decision to "withdraw from the court of Mars to kneel at the feet of Minerva" was hardly a pacific one: "I preferred the weapons of dialectic ... and armed with these I chose the conflicts of disputation instead of the trophies of war." In fact, there was an inescapable violence to scholastic discourse, based, as it is, on disputation and domination of any given subject.v' Gerson was well aware of the aggression and attendant abuses that such methods fostered. His treatise One Hundred Utterances Concerning Impulses condemns the urge toward deception rife among preachers or writers, which Gerson associates with a "shameless fantasy that ... seeks machinations for conquest." Satan himself is portrayed as an adept theologian (witness his riddling of Eve or 'his temptation of Christ), whose presence is frequently concealed within "the snares of the sophistS."51

This apprehension of the dangers of scholasticism did not interfere with Gerson's own deployment of incisive rhetorical weaponry. Scholars, trained in dialectic, were equally adept at subverting any positive "case" by arguing to the opposite purpose. Indeed, the ad feminam twist to Gerson's discourse on discernment is a case in point: On the Proving ofSpirits is basically a reworking of a treatise defending the inspiration of Bridget's revelations by her confessor and literary executor, Alphonse of Pecha.V In essence, scholastic argumentation leaves a shadow text of discarded or disproved tenets that invite ingenious appropriation. Gerson's subversion was skilled but routine. A shadow text can, as we shall see, coalesce and take shape in much more alarming and unpredictable ways.

In tandem with the scholarly apparatus associated with Gerson's theological training, one must consider the slow penetration of the inquisitional process into many different areas of Christian life. An import of Roman law, the inquisitio, with its pattern of interrogation-a different, though related, use of the quaestio than is present in scholasticism-became the preferred mechanism for arriving at the truth. Over the course of the thirteenth century, it left its mark, linking areas as seemingly disparate as sacramental confession, the canonization of saints, and the prosecution of heretics.P

50 Peter Abelard, Historia calamitatum, in Betty Radice, trans., The Letters ofAbelard and Heloise (Harmondsworth, 1974), 58. See Jody Enders, "The Theater of Scholastic Erudition," Comparative Drama 27 (1993): 352-53; and Helen Solterer, The Master and Minerva: Disputing Women in French Medieval Culture (Chicago, 1995), 32-33. This tenor of violence is sustained by modern usage, as is apparent in George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's discussion of argument as war in Metaphors We Live By (Chicago, 1980), 4-5.

51 Gerson also points to the female prophet in Acts 16.16, the source of considerable revenue to her masters, as an instance of Satan's theological mastery. Nor does he omit this opportunity to warn clerics against being taken in by the false marvels and revelations of women (De centilogium de impulsibus, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 8: 141-43). His treatise Contra curiositatem studentium (1402) also upbraids scholars for their sterile, and frequently dangerous, appetite for novelties at the expense of Scripture and the Church Fathers (3: 224-49). This treatise has been partially translated by Ozment, Jean Gerson: Selections, 26-45.

52 See Colledge, "Epistola solitarii," 45. Arne Jonsson has edited Alphonse's treatise in Alfonso of Jaen: His Life and Works (Lund, 1989), 115-67. On the collaborative work between Bridget and Alphonse, see Hans Torben Gilkeer,ThePoliticalIdeas ofSt.BirgittaandHerSpanish Confessor,Alfonso Pecha, Michael Cain, trans. (Odense, 1993).

53 On the spread of the inquisitional procedure in the high Middle Ages, see A. Esmein, A History ofContinental Criminal Procedure with Special Reference to France, John Simpson, trans. (Boston, 1913), 9-11, 79-89. Regarding the introduction of inquisitional procedure into processes of canonization, see Vauchez, La saintete, 42-60. For the parallels between the inquisition against heresy and the private


Gerson's attitude to female spirituality was further informed by his perception of the clergy's pastoral duties. His treatises on discernment differ remarkably from those of his predecessors in his reliance on concrete cases and exempla, in this way emulating some of the earliest efforts to discuss spiritual discernment in the tradition of the Desert Fathers as exemplified in the works of John Cassian (d. 435) and John Climacus (d. 649).54 The applied or even clinical nature of specific instances was in keeping with Gerson's pastoral concerns. But by constituting women as the frequent butt of his exempla, Gerson was making a deliberate intervention in a tradition that had been more inclined to address male error, since there were relatively few women in the eastern deserts of the early church. Moreover, since Gerson's treatises on the subject were written from a pastoral standpoint to alert other clerics to potential problems amid their flock, the implications of making his treatises pointedly ad feminam were potentially immense-particularly considering Gerson's unparalleled stature in Europe at this time.

Still, Gerson's use of the tradition of the Desert Fathers was selective. For instance, he periodically warned the spiritually inexperienced against a potentially dangerous imitation of their ascetical extremes." Moreover, the Desert Fathers had assumed that the art of discernment was something that, at least initially, was to be practiced on oneself, though ultimately requiring that all spiritual impulses be submitted to one's spiritual director. Gerson's more immediate predecessors also seemed to envision that the individual would, as a matter of course, first practice discernment on his or her own revelations.w By contrast, Gerson primarily

inquisitions conducted in the course of sacramental confession, see Annie Cazenave, "Aveu et contrition: Manuels de confesseurs et interrogatoires d'inquisition en Languedoc et en Catalogne (XIIIe-XIVe siecles)," in La piet« populaire au moyen age, Actes du 9ge Congres National des Societes Savantes, Bescancon, 1974 (Paris, 1977), 333-52. Also see Lester Little, "Les techniques de la confession et la confession comme technique," in Faire croire:Modalites de la diffusion et de la reception des messages religieux du X/Ie au XVe siecle, Table ronde organisee par l'Ecole Francaise de Rome, en collaboration avec l'Institut d'Histoire Medievale de l'Universite de Padoue, Rome, 22-23 juin 1979 (Rome, 1981), 87-99. Little further presents the interrogatory nature of confession as a simplified scholastic exercise (p. 98). Despite the manifest presence of this procedure in different fora, there is a misguided tendency to associate all the abuses occasioned by the prosecution of heresy with the inquisitional procedure-a tendency Henry Ansgar Kelly refutes in "Inquisitition and the Prosecution of Heresy: Misconceptions and Abuses," Church History 58 (1989): 439-51. Gerson's inquisitional strategies are discussed below.

54 See particularly Cassian, Conferences 1.2, E. Pichery, ed., Sources Chretiennes, no. 42 (Paris, 1955), 1: 109-37; trans. by Boniface Ramsey, in John Cassian: The Conferences (New York, 1997), 77-112; John Climacus, Scala paradisi step 26, Patrologia Graeca, J.-P. Migne, ed. (Paris, 1857-66), vol. 88, cols. 1013-96; trans. by Colm Luibheid and Norman Russell in The Ladder of Divine Ascent (New York, 1982),229-60. Also see Joseph Lienhard, "On 'Discernment of Spirits' in the Early Church," Theological Studies 41 (1980): 525-26; Regis Appel, "Cassian's Discretio-A Timeless Virtue," American Benedictine Review 17 (1966): 24-27; and Gustave Bardy, "Discernement des esprits: II. Chez les peres," Dictionnaire de spiritualite, vol. 3, cols. 1251-52. Gerson refers to both Cassian and Climacus by name with respect to discernment. See De distinctione verarum revelationum a falsis, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 3: 44; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 345.

55 See his first letter against Ruusbroec, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 62; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 210; compare De non esu camium, in which Gerson evokes the traditional distinction between admiration versus imitation with regard to aspects of the ascetical doctrine of Climacus (Oeuvres completes, 3: 87).

56 See, for example, Henry of Friemar, who avers that Satan tricks individuals into mistrusting their own judgment (De quatuor instinctibus, fol. 61r). Compare Henry of Langenstein, who urges all those

represents discernment as the prerogative of the priesthood in its Janus-faced capacity of shepherd/judge.

Finally, there are certain structural and philosophical considerations to Gerson's discourse. By isolating woman per se as more prone to error, and thus particularly requiring pastoral vigilance, Gerson was following the structural logic of his own thrust toward exemplification. Thus the learned male clerical judge calls out for its counterpart: the unlearned female lay defendant. Insofar as this pairing corresponded with the contours of his prescribed hierarchy in discernment, this was a logical and controlled benefit of using women as exempla.

Some of the implications of casting women as negative exemplars necessarily reached beyond the compass of Gerson's work to the larger discursive terrain of misogyny. The general outlines of this discourse are familiar to us al1.57 First, there is the polarization in representations of women. Even as abstract and frequently positive concepts like philosophy, wisdom, or truth tend to seek female representation, so concrete instances of folly seek a female subject. Woman's capacity for negative exemplarity is not only conditioned by her perceived over-embodiment, as implied by her reproductive capacity, it is also buttressed by theological and medical traditions that saw woman as a "bad copy" of man-hence the familiar bent rib syndrome." Moreover, the fall of humanity was, arguably, predicated on the inadequacy of Eve's faculty of discernment in the first place, a defect that rendered her an easy mark for the predatory suasions of Lucifer. In short, once Gerson moved the tradition of spiritual discernment in the direction he did, the very weight of woman's mottled representational legacy would open the way to unlimited elaboration. Momentum would make this development difficult to resist, let alone reverse. In fact, there was no mechanism for its release, since there was no alternative to substitute for women as an ideal type of a negatively valenced weak-minded carnality. As a result, the literature of spiritual discernment would become the prisoner of the misogynistic tradition: woman would come to embody the duplicity or "doubleness" that was afflicting Christendom, and thus become the target for its doubts and self-loathing.

GERSON'S EARLIER EFFORTS on discernment were not limited simply to the theoretical treatises discussed above, they also involved practical applications. In fact, Gerson's reputation as a reliable assessor seems to have been already established in

attempting to act in the spirit of God to study the various natural and supernatural forces affecting the individual (De discretione spirituum c. 2, p. 63). Peter d'Ailly's orientation in De falsis prophetis is more political. He anticipates individuals who are deliberately misleading others versus the kind of spiritual and pastoral problems that preoccupy other writers in this genre.

57 Some of the most important misogynistic texts, as well as some notable defenses of women, have been translated by Alcuin Blamires in Woman Defamed and Woman Defended: An Anthology of Medieval Texts (Oxford, 1992). Also see his analysis of the ostensibly positive side of the discourse, The Case for Women in Medieval Culture (Oxford, 1997).

58 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York, 1990), 31. Although Butler's idea of the bad copy is primarily mobilized to characterize the perception of gay sexuality in relation to heterosexuality, it is clearly useful for understanding medieval notions of gender. For an overview of the medical construction of woman's secondary nature, see Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, Mass., 1990), esp. pt. 1.


1401 or 1402, when he received an appeal from the prior of the abbey of Saint-Denys of Reims, Jean Morel, concerning the recently deceased holy woman Ermine of Reims. Ermine was a widow of humble origin who continued to live in the world after the death of her husband. Her turbulent inner life seems to have revolved around a series of celestial and demonic visitors-the latter never tiring in their attempts to pass themselves off as the former." Gerson's response to this case is well worth lingering over since it establishes a strategy that will recur in his later dealings with female mystics, particularly Joan of Arc.60 Morel was very anxious to have Gerson's reactions to the life and visions of Ermine. A model of scholarly method, Gerson's analysis is shaped into three conclusions (which, in turn, keep dividing down into triplicates), all devoted to limitation, containment, and damage control. In the first conclusion, Gerson posits that the book contains nothing contrary to Scripture, while similar occurrences are found in the lives of the fathers. Second: although the contents of her visions were not essential to an individual's salvation, "I think, nevertheless, that it is rash and crude to insist on dissenting from such things or to attack them with stubborn ill will."61 Third, the book should not be widely circulated but limited to those who would be edified by its contents. The restricted audience is called for, allegedly, out of respect for the book's contents: "so that what is holy not be cast to the dogs, as pearls are thrown before swine [Matthew 7.6]." An ideal audience would consist of "those who are stable in their way of life and concerned with their own salvation"-in other words, individuals who could easily dispense with such a model. To these select few, "this woman being poor, old, uneducated ... provide[s] a powerful example of the apostolic truth that God has chosen what is weak in the world to overcome what is powerful [1 Corinthians 1.27]." In this context, "the powerful" indicates the many demons, continually plaguing her throughout her life, who are confounded by her humility.vAgainst these supernatural foes, Ermine is fortified by a triplicate set of virtues. The first is her profound humility, which stimulated "a most passionate and conscientious awareness of her own weakness and imperfection." Second, her life demonstrates the ultimate safety that an unwavering faith imparts. Third, her prudent but unlearned simplicity is particularly commended: "an untaught wisdom, which does not depend on its own prudence but does all things with counsel [Proverbs 13.10]."63 In the context of Gerson's subsequent treatises on discernment, this final

59 See Gerson, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 93-96; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 244-49. Ermine's life and visions, recorded by her confessor, the Franciscan Jean Le Graveur, have recently been edited by Claude Arnaud-Gillet, Entre Dieu et Satan: Les visions d'Ermine de Reims (t1396) (Florence, 1997). Morel was acting on behalf of Ermine's confessor (see Arnaud-Gillet's introduction, 16-17). Glorieux had tentatively dated Gerson's letter as 1408. Arnaud-Gillet more convincingly places Gerson's initial assessment of Ermine in 1401 or 1402 (intro., 21-24). This makes sense in the context of Gerson's own statement, cited below, that his judgment on Ermine coincided with his treatise On Distinguishing True from False Revelations, which was written in 1401.

60 See Francoise Bonney's comparison of Gerson's two interventions, "Jugement de Gerson sur deux experiences de la vie mystique de son epoque: Les visions d'Ermine et de Jeanne d'Arc," inActes du 9Se Congres national des societes savantes, Reims 1970 (Paris, 1974), 2: 187-95. The treatment is somewhat flawed by the implicit assumption that Gerson shared the same familiarity with Joan's visions as did the inquisitors at her trial (pp. 192-93). But see her characterization of Ermine's visions (pp. 190-92).

61 Gerson, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 94; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 245.

62 Gerson, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 95; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 247.

~3Gerson, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 96; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 248.


characteristic may be seen as the cornerstone to his approval: truly ignorant, but she knows it! Docile and ductile, she can do no harm.

From first to last, Gerson's cautious endorsement of Ermine exemplifies scholarly prudence. Consistent with his own concern for authenticity, it concludes with the following assertion: "I have signed this letter in my own hand in testimony of both my agreement and consent. This is the hand which you know, which cannot be imitated and has no desire to deceive, and which I think could not lie with impunity."64 As a whole,. the letter is safely couched in the context of Morel's request (which was described as repeated and even importunate), while much of the "work" of the letter is to establish Gerson as an even-handed assessor versus an enthusiastic supporter. If subsequent events caused him to regret his decision, his earlier opinions had been sufficiently sotto voce as to make a reversal possible.

And such a reversal did eventually occur-although it is unclear how soon after Gerson's letter to Morel. In the final treatise that addresses the question of discernment directly, On the Examination of Doctrine (1423), Gerson cautions particularly against easily crediting those who use their purported revelations for usurping the right to teach and promoting their own claims to sanctity. Women, especially laywomen, are singled out. These usurpers can be broken down into three categories in ascending order of severity. From the point of view of intentionality, these first two categories are relatively innocuous: those suffering illusions due to brain damage (ex fantasia capitis perturbati) and those who are genuinely deceived but do not wish to deceive others. Ermine, however, is introduced in the lethal third category:

There are many others who do not wish themselves to be deceived, but nevertheless wish to deceive others by fashioning marvelous things and those things that they know to be false; and the number of those things is infinite, and, by me an expert who speaks often, if I wished to report or to write, a great effect that book would have and it would be a marvel amongst the curious. Blessed God preserved me many times from seduction [a seductione] from the mockery and contempt of such ones. I confess that earlier I was near seduction fproximus seductioni] over a certain Ermine of Reims through the relations of some men possessed of great reputations-if I had not, with God willing, tempered the manner of my response. Around that time, I compiled a little work or reading concerning the distinction of true revelations from false.s>

This passage is extremely revealing: God is seen as the custodian ensuring Gerson's credibility as the "expert who speaks often." Gerson is thus divinely spared various seductions-be they the derision of the curious or the more potent lure of Ermine and her puissant supporters. God's intervention is particularly manifest in the fact that Gerson "tempered the manner of [his] response." Thus his measured method of discernment receives a kind of divine ratification.

64 Gerson, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 2: 96; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 248-49.

65 Gerson, De examinatione doctrinarum , in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 474. Arnaud-Gillet notes that, by the time of Gerson's reversal, all of Ermine's supporters were safely dead; Entre Dieu et Satan, 26-27. The preface of the Latin translation of Ermine's vita emphasizes that the original vernacular life had been carefully examined and pronounced orthodox by many prudent men, among whom "were famous masters in sacred theology." While clearly alluding to Gerson, the translator does not mention him by name, probably aware of Gerson's later repudiation of Ermine (Bibliotheque Nationale de France, MS. Lat. 13782, fol. 2r).

We are not told what specifically led to Gerson's disillusionment with Ermine. Nor is it at all certain whether his shifting perspective directly prompted the treatise on discernment, to which he refers, or whether he was still riding the crest of his modest wave of support for Ermine.s" But his initial caution and his ultimate reversal both appear to be motivated by the fear of being duped by a fake or "bad copy." This fear informs his attraction to the rhetoric of authentic coins versus counterfeits in On Distinguishing True from False Revelations. Indeed, Gerson builds his entire treatise around this metaphor: "We are to be like spiritual moneychangers or merchants. With skill and care we examine the precious and unfamiliar coin of divine revelation, in order to find out whether demons, who strive to corrupt and counterfeit any divine and good coin, smuggle in a false and base coin instead of the true and legitimate one."67 Moreover, his leading example is, arguably, the most compelling instance of impostorship perpetrated amid the Desert Fathers: a series of incidents in which the devil disguises himself as Christ. The fathers are not deceived in answering: "'I do not wish to see Christ on earth. I will be happy to see him in heaven,'" or variations thereof.s" The implication is not only that any credible mystic would exercise parallel skepticism with respect to supernatural visitors but that Gerson's readers should manifest similar caution with the mystic.

The image of the moneychanger perfectly adumbrates Gerson's approach to discernment, while securely anchoring it within tradition. With regard to the latter point: the link between discernment of spirits and the testing of metals did not originate with Gerson. From patristic times, the art of discernment had been likened to the task of the numeralius or moneychanger, whose profession required him to authenticate or "prove" (probare) coins by testing them in a fire. This was a frequent analogy employed by Jerome, Ambrose, Cassian, and others.v? The image

66 Note that, in addition to his allusion to Marguerite Porete's confusion of carnal and spiritual love mentioned above, this treatise also contains what was initially identified by Johan Huizinga as an autobiographical episode concerning a spiritual friendship with a woman that slowly reverted to its carnal counterpart (De distinctione verarum revelationum a falsis, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 3: 52; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 357). See Brian Patrick McGuire's discussion of this episode, and the way it might have shaped Gerson's attitude toward women, "Jean Gerson and the End of Spiritual Friendship: Dilemmas of Conscience," in Friendship in Medieval Europe, Julian Halsedine, ed. (Thrupp, 1999), 236-38.

67 Gerson, De distinctione verarum revelationum a falsis, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 3: 39; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 337.

68 Gerson, De distinctione verarum revelationum a falsis, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 3: 39; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 339;. compare De probatione spirituum, 9: 182; trans. Boland, Concept of "Discretio spirituum," 33.

69 Ambrose, Expositio evangelii secundum Lucam 1.1, M. Adriaen, ed., Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina (hereafter, CCSL) 14 (Turnhout, 1957), 6-7; Cassian, Conferences 1.20-22, Pichery, 1: 101-05; Ramsey, John Cassian, 59-63; Jerome, Commentar. in Epist. ad Ephes. 3.4, vol. 31, ad Omnis amaritudo, et furor, et ira, Patrologia Latina (hereafter, PL), J.-P. Migne, ed. (Paris, 1857-64), vol. 26, col. 549; Jerome, Comment. in Epist. ad Philemonem vol. 4 and following, ad Gratias ago Deo me semper, PL 26, col. 646. Compare Gregory the Great's detailed deployment of this theme with respect to the question of false prophets when commenting on the qualities of Leviathan in Job 41.10 (Moralia in lob 33.35.60, CCSL 143b [Turnhout, 1985], 1724-26). Jerome increases the authority of this image when he claims that Christ himself ordered his followers to be good moneychangers (Epistle 119, To Minervius and Alexander, Epistulae, I. Hilberg, ed., Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 55, rev. and supplemented edn. [Vienna, 1996], 467-68). Alardus Gazaeus identifies this passage as the gospel according to the Hebrews-an apocryphal work that still would have been fair game at the time of Origen and earlier commentators on this theme, but that was somewhat more questionable by Jerome's time. See Gazaeus's commentary on Cassian's Collationes 1.20, PL 49, col. 511, note d. For earlier


was particularly propitious because God was frequently described as "proving" his elect like gold in a furnace through the visitation of various trials-the quintessential example being Job, who explicitly likens himself to gold being passed through the fire."? The apostolic injunction to "prove the spirits" (1 John 4.1) implicitly associates God's probatory function with the assessments wrought by human ministers.

By enlisting this venerable image, Gerson would receive the weighty validation imparted by the unassailable biblical and patristic legacy. But he was doubtless attracted to the imagery surrounding this form of authentication for its affinities with the scholastic methodology itself and the potential parallels between the analogous functions of moneychanger and scholar. Both sets of professionals were fully apprised of the alarming fact that once the counterfeit coin was introduced into a particular economy-be it fiscal, intellectual, or spiritual-it would circulate like any other coin, mysteriously contaminating all that it touched."! In order to avert this, the moneychanger "proved" (probare) gold in a fire, while the scholar "proved" (probare) a subject (or proposition) by assailing it with various objections. Gerson proceeds to establish five metallurgically informed proofs of authenticityeach of which is associated with a necessary virtue. Hence weight corresponds with and is "proved" by humility, flexibility with discretion, durability with patience, conformability with truth, color with charity.F

Gerson's caution with regard to Ermine is at one with the strategy pursued in his most celebrated treatise on discernment, On the Proving of Spirits-a title both invoking Paul's biblical injunction and subtly sustaining the image of the moneychanger. In this work, his challenge of Bridget of Sweden's recent canonization is subtly couched in a triple set of dangers: the risk that the council may approve visions that are imagined and false, the potential scandal of suppressing a cult to which many already adhere, and the danger in silence. Gerson's response is to propose his "middle ground," consisting of the ensuing guidelines for discernmerit." Thus, assembling his ideas under twelve considerations, Gerson first focuses on who is qualified to discern spirits. While acknowledging in passing that some can discern spirits on the basis of inspiration of the Holy Spirit alone, and that an experiential knowledge of mysticism is necessary, the treatise is nevertheless focused on what he lists as the first method of discernment: "the norms from holy

instances, particularly in the eastern church, see A. Resch, Agrapha: Ausserkanonische Evangelienfragmente (Leipzig, 1889), 116-27.

70 Job 23.10; compare Wisdom 3.5-6, Psalms 16.3.

71 See Jacques Derrida, Given Time, Vol. 1: Counterfeit Money, Peggy Kamuf, trans. (Chicago, 1992), 157-58. Derrida emphasizes that whatever interest accrues still has a disturbing origin "from a simulachrum, from a copy of a copy (phantasma)," p. 161. Thanks to Simon Gaunt for bringing this work to my attention. It is interesting to note in this context that Cassian's spiritual counterfeit coin is identical in every way to the legitimate species-save that it was unlawfully minted (Conferences 1.20, 1.21, Pichery, 104, 105; Ramsey, John Cassian, 61, 62). The same holds true for the alleged work of the heretical Lollard counterfeiters described in Paul Strohm, England's Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation (New Haven, Conn., 1998), 128-52, esp. 128-29.

72 Gerson, De distinctione verarum revelationum a falsis, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 3: 39; McGuire, Jean Gerson, 338. 73 Gerson, De probatione spirituum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 179; Boland, Concept of "Discretio spirituum, " 28-29.

scripture and those proposed by good men [virosl well versed in it."74 He reduces his method to six terse principles of inquiry to be applied to the probation of mystic and revelations alike. These he summarizes in a little ditty (which in the Latin original would have rhymed): "Ask who, what, why / To whom, what kind, whence?" The following gloss is, in turn, given: "Who is it to whom the revelation is made? What does the revelation itself mean and to what does it refer? Why is it said to have taken place? To whom was it manifested for advice? What kind of life does the visionary lead? Whence does the revelation originate?"75 In this line of questioning, we can decipher the familiar contours of interrogation associated with the inquisitional procedure and, ultimately, its diverse uses.?? Thus later, in the same treatise, when Gerson comments on the indispensability of theologians to the processes of canonization of saints, he automatically brings to mind its inquisitionally constituted ethos."?

Beyond the various dangers to which Gerson alludes at the outset of On the Proving of Spirits is the tacit or suppressed danger that Gerson's view might ultimately be rejected by the assembly-which is, in a sense, what occurred. And since the Council of Constance did, ultimately, approve Bridget and her revelations, it is just as well that Gerson simply posed Bridget and her ilk as a quaestio, for which he provided the appropriate apparatus but not the solution.

The inquisitional allusions are taken up with still greater vehemence in the final treatise, On the Examination of Doctrine. Here, Gerson calls for a more "particular inquisition" of a confessor's overly partial testimony at a deceased penitent's process of canonization." He also notes that if "a great inquisition" occurs over the purveyors of heretical opinion, how much more apt for the screening of new teachings, be they theological or canonical."? As already mentioned, it is this later treatise that denounces Ermine by name, leaving little doubt about the very high price Gerson assigned to credulity about female visions. His critique of confessors who sponsor their female penitents' cults is followed by an admonition to clerics against ceding authority to women and idiots. This point is punctuated with the example of Gregory XI who, in extremis with his hand on the consecrated host, bemoaned his own adherence to certain mystics whom Gerson refrains from

74 Gerson, De probatione spirituum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 178; Boland, Concept of "Discretio spirituum," 28. 75 Gerson, De probatione spirituum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 180; Boland, Concept of "Discretio spirituum, " 30.

76 Raymond of Pefiafort's extremely influential Summa de paenitentia was instrumental in spreading this manner of interrogation. Compare the following little ditty to be adopted by the confessor: "Who, what, where, through whom, how many times, why, how, and when, / Should be observed by all when applying the medicine" (3.34.31, Xavier Ochoa and Aloisius Diez, eds., Universa Bibliotheca Iuris, vol. 1 [Rome, 1976], vol. B, col. 828); also see John of Freiburg, Summa confessorum 3.34.82-83 (Rome, 1518), fols. 192v-193r. For Gerson's deployment of the inquisitional techniques in the confessional, see Brian Patrick McGuire, "Education, Confession, and Pious Fraud: Jean Gerson and a Late Medieval Change," American Benedictine Review 47 (1996): 330-33; also see Dyan Elliott, Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia, 1999), 23.

77 Gerson, De probatione spirituum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 181; Boland, Concept of "Discretio spirituum," 32.

78 Gerson, De examinatione doctrinarum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 469.

79 Gerson, De examinatione doctrinarum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 471-72.


naming, though clearly alluding to Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, whose deluded advice precipitated the papal schism.s?

GERSON HAD THE OPPORTUNITY to refine considerably his scholarly technique of spiritual discernment over the years. But when he attempted to use this mechanism in a different way, he learned that he was less its master than he might have supposed. I am referring to his attempt to use it for purposes of vindication, perhaps even sanctification, in the case of Joan of Arc.81 Try as he might to adapt his discourse of discernment to an alternate and more vindicatory purpose, he was to discover himself, like the captain of the Titanic, unable to change its course or to overcome its inevitable inertia. He could not "turn it around." By the time he saw the iceberg, it was too late; a collision was inevitable.

Uniting the exacting requirements for academic proof with the uniformity of an inquisition, Gerson's approach procedurally required the seeming disinterest of the inquisitor versus the overt ardor of a potential apologist. This would be in keeping with Gerson's disparagement of a confessor's bias in favor of his holy charge. From Gerson's perspective, this disinterest not only added the sheen of credibility to the endeavor, it also provided the essential room to maneuver in the event that the judge had to revoke an earlier decision. But, ultimately, Gerson's machine was built to generate judgments. Moreover, fueled as it was by objections, careful considerations, and doubt, it was better adapted to producing condemnations than vindications, even as it was more successful at identifying heretics than identifying saints.

Twenty-eight years after his regretted endorsement of Ermine of Reims, fourteen years after his scuttled attempt to undermine Bridget of Sweden's

80 Gerson, De examinatione doctrinarum, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 469-70. Note that eventually, with the publication of the Codex, an individual saint's confessor would be excluded as a witness to his penitent's sanctity. See Angelus Mitri, De figura juridica postulatoris in causis beatificationis et canonizationis (Rome, 1962), 101-02 n. 41. On Bridget and Catherine's involvement in the schism, see Bridget Morris, St.Birgitta ofSweden (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1999), 113-17; Karen Scott, " '10 Catharina': Ecclesiastical Politics and Oral Culture in the Letters of Catherine of Siena," in Dear Sister.· Medieval Women and the Epistolatory Genre, Karen Cherewatuk and Ulrike Wiethaus, eds. (Philadelphia, 1993), 87-121; and n. 1, above.

81 For the initial controversy surrounding Joan, see Deborah Fraioli, Joan ofArc.' The EarlyDebate (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2000). This useful book only came to my attention once this article was completed. Joan's mission would, in fact, be helped by the contemporary climate of prophecy. See Jacques Paul, "Le prophetisme autour de Jeanne d'Arc et de sa mission," in II profetismo gioachimita tra Quattrocento e Cinquecento,Atti del III Congresso Internazionale di Studi Gioachimiti, S. Giovanni in Fiore, 17-21 settembre 1989, Gian Luca Potesta, ed. (Genoa, 1991), 157-81; Vauchez, "Jeanne d'Arc," 163-66. In particular, Joan's coming was thought to have been predicted by the prophetess Marie Robine. See Noel Valois, "Jeanne d'Arc et la prophetie de Marie Robine," in Melanges Paul Fabre.' Etudes d'histoire du moyen age (Paris, 1902), 452-67. See Matthew Tobin, "Le 'Livre de revelations' de Marie Robine: Etude et edition," MEFRM 98 (1986): 229-64. The question of Joan's awareness of these prophecies is raised at her trial. See Pierre Tisset, ed., Procesde condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc (Paris, 1960-), 1: 67. Also note the important role played by the popular apocalyptic preacher Brother Richard, whose impact is described in the journal of an anonymous Parisian. See A Parisian Journal: 1405-1449, ann. 1429,Janet Shirley, trans. (Oxford, 1968),230-35. The only time Joan met with Brother Richard, he performed an ad hoc exorcism before approaching her, but he would eventually validate her mission. Joan is also questioned about her dealings with him at her trial (Tisset, Proces, 1: 98; compare 261,100,105,206). See Jules de La Martiniere, "Frere Richard et Jeanne d'Arc a Orleans: Mars-juillet 1430," Le moyen age, sere 3, 5 (1934): 189-98.

canonization, Gerson, writing in exile in Lyons as an enemy of the now ascendant Anglo-Burgundian party, set about vindicating the divine source of Joan of Arc's inspiration.v The tone is characteristically cautious. Even so, there is good reason to believe that his support of Joan was every bit as warm as that of Christine de Pizan, who wrote an ardent poem commemorating Joan as a model of female heroism.P But Gerson's investment is reflected inversely in the degree of reasoned detachment he affects in his treatise. (And I should say at the outset that it is these devices of detachment I am concerned with rather than the arguments Gerson mobilizes for her defense.) The opening of the treatise sets the tone:

Over the deed of the maid and the credulity fit to be extended to her, it ought to be supposed in the first place that many false things are probable-indeed according to the Philosopher it is proposed that false things are more probable than certain true ones to the extent that contradictory things are the same in degree of probability though not in truth. [Second] It ought to be further heeded that probability, if rightly founded and understood, ought not to be called an error or erroneous unless its assertion is pertinaciously extended beyond the limits of probability ... A third consideration arises concerning faith and good morals which creates a twofold difference ... Some things are said for the necessity of faith, and these admit of no doubt or conjecture of probability, [since] according to popular judgment, doubt in faith is infidelity ... Different again are those things in the faith or of the faith that are called for by piety or devotion, but in no way from necessity, concerning which things it can be said in the common tongue: he who doesn't believe it isn't damned.s-

In this rather involuted opening, the mechanisms of skepticism are finely tuned in the extreme-i-simultaneously establishing Gerson's disinterested right to judge, while building into his defense of Joan a generous escape clause for himself. He secures this latter condition by enlisting the Aristotelian supposition that the realm of the probable invariably overshadows the actual, at the same time maintaining that (despite its extreme fallibility) a position based on probability is not an error. Gerson proceeds to underline the compulsory nature of the articles of the faith with an explicit, albeit unavowed, citation from the Decretales of Gregory IX.85 The noncompulsory nature of popular devotion is, by contrast, signified by a popular adage in the vernacular. In other words, if Gerson is wrong in his subsequent s.upport of Joan (and the laws of probability are against him, as he himself points

82 On Joan of Arc and the challenge that her visions presented for the discernment of spirits, see William Christian, who uses Joan as something of a test case for later Christian visionaries, in Apparitions in Late Medieval Spain (Princeton, N.J., 1981), 188-94. Also see Karen Sullivan, who, while acknowledging that Gerson was writing for a clerical audience of potential assessors, nevertheless argues that Gerson tacitly implied that the mystic could apply his guidelines for discernment on him or herself. She further posits that Joan did attempt something like Gersonian discernment on her own revelations (The Interrogation of Joan of Arc [Minneapolis, 1999], 33-35). The reasons underwriting Gerson's exile have to do with his condemnation of the murder of the duke of Orleans by the Burgundians (see Connolly, John Gerson, 164-67, 189-91).

83 See Christine de Pizan's Ditie de Jehanne d'Arc, Angus J. Kennedy and Kenneth Varty, eds. (Oxford, 1977); trans. by Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski and Kenneth Brownlee in The Selected Writings of Christine de Pizan: New Translations, Criticism (New York, 1997), 252-62.

84 John Gerson, De puella Aurelianensi, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 661-62. This treatise has been partially translated by H. G. Francq, "Jean Gerson's Theological Treatise and Other Memoirs in Defence of Joan of Arc," Revue de l'Universite d'Ottawa 41 (1971): 61-64. Fraioli summarizes this treatise in Joan ofArc, 22-44. She remains, however, circumspect as to its authorship.

85 X.5.7.1, in Decretalium collectiones, vol. 2 of Corpus iuris canonici, Emil Friedberg, ed. (Leipzig, 1879), col. 778. This is the authoritative canonistic work of the period.


out), he is not in error. By the same token, neither does anyone who refuses to believe in Joan err.86

Even after weaving this elaborate safety net, Gerson still demurs, instead proceeding to outline certain conditions for establishing the merit of an object of devotion: that the cult leads to greater piety, that probability is established on the basis of reliable eyewitnesses, and that the matter is screened by a theologian.s? In other words, his criteria for whether or not Joan's deed is worthy of veneration closely track those used for the canonization of saints." At this juncture, he takes a second opportunity to point to the disagreement among experts regarding matters of piety-vexed questions such as the conception of the Virgin Mary, the validity of indulgences for certain sins, and the authenticity of various relics.

Only now is Gerson prepared to undertake his assessment of Joan's claims. In brief, he argues that belief in the deed of the Maid of Orleans can be maintained by its excellent outcome: the restitution of the kingdom and the repulsion of France's enemies. Certain attendant circumstances weigh in her favor: she does not use witchcraft and she takes risks on behalf of a worthy cause.

At this point, Gerson momentarily breaks off his defense to address the many malicious rumors circulating against Joan, answering with a line from Cato's Distichs to the effect that he need not concern himself with judging what everyone else says.89 "But," Gerson continues, "we do have to judge what ought to be believed or upheld, maintaining prudence and pushing contention and sedition far away for, as the Apostle says, a servant of God does not litigate" (2 Timothy 11.24). Thus, underlining his function as disinterested judge, he posits that either these discussions must be tolerated or the matter should be referred to religious superiors, as is the case with the canonization of saints. He again takes the opportunity to note that, while veneration of particular cults is not a requirement of the faith, still they ought not to be derided. Indeed, a canonized saint warrants more respect than his or her popular but unauthorized counterpart.

The apology is again resumed: the Maid has the faith of the king and his council, creates exultation in and increases the piety of the people, and inspires fear in the

86 Compare Gerson's similar insistence that an individual is not in error for backing the various papal contenders in the time of the schism, provided he or she is acting in good faith (John Gerson, De modo se habendi tempore schismatis, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 6: 29-30). See Alain Boureau's discussion of the anxiety surrounding the pseudo-pope and the foil he creates for the eschatologically inflected expectation of an angelic pope in The Myth of Pope Joan, Lydia Cochrane, trans. (Chicago, 2001), 147-49.

87 Gerson, De puella Aurelianensi, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 662.

88 The basic protocol is outlined by the canonist Hostiensis (d. 1271) in Henry of Segusio, Cardinal, In tertium decretalium librum (Venice, 1581), ad X.3.45, De reliquiis, et veneratione sanctorum c. 1, vol. 2, fols. 172r-v. See Vauchez,La saintete, 484-89, 600-14; Aviad Kleinberg, "Proving Sanctity: Selection and Authentication of Saints in the Later Middle Ages," Viator 20 (1989): 183-205. Georges Peyronnet also notes the resemblance between Gerson's defense and the criteria for papal canonization: "Gerson, Charles VII et Jeanne d'Arc: La propagande au service de la guerre," Revue d'histoire ecclesiastique 84, no. 1 (1989): 344.

89 Gerson, De puella Aurelianensi, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 663. The Distichs was an anonymous collection of witty sayings, written sometime in the third century but attributed to Cato the Elder. The work was wildly popular in the Middle Ages, especially in university circles. The full epigraph, of which Gerson only cites the second line, is: "When -you live properly, don't worry about the words of evil men; / it is not necessary that we judge what everybody else says" (Disticha Catonis 3.2, Marcus Boas, ed. [Amsterdam, 1952], 154).

enemy.?'' Neither she nor her followers are imprudent, willful, or stubborn. They are not tempting God; in fact, the Maid takes her directions and warnings from God. He likens her to other religious heroines such as Deborah, St. Catherine, or Judith. Even if there is no sequel to her initial miraculous success, this does not signify that her achievements were wrought by an evil spirit: it could well be that France's own sinfulness aborted God's goodness. Finally, he concludes with four "civil and theological" considerations in her favor: the king and his relatives, the French army, the clergy and the laity, and the Maid herself-the purpose of each being to live well and piously for God. The Maid, moreover, displays the grace of God in her selflessness and piety, as well as her work for peace in France. He concludes simply: "This deed was done by God. "91

Appended to the treatise proper is an additional threefold defense of Joan's assumption of masculine garb, which basically argues that the Old Testament prohibition on a female assumption of male costume can be waived, given the proper circumstances.v-The conclusion is especially germane. Warning that France's skeptical ingratitude of Joan's victory may result in the withdrawal of divine assistance, Gerson ends with this observation: "For God changes his sentence as a result of a change in merit, even if he does not change his counsel."93 Such a sentiment also leaves room for Gerson to change his sentence on Joan, yet his advice concerning spiritual discernment would have remained admirably consistent.

IN NO TIME AT ALL, Gerson's treatise-redolent of his own latent ambivalence and couched in the tacitly reversible language of scholasticism-spawned a double condemning Joan. The timing was very tight. Gerson's treatise-proper is dated May 14, 1429-that is, six days after the successful battle of Orleans and a mere two months before Gerson's own death. By the end of the summer, the AngloBurgundian party would create their own response to Gerson's defense.v' Originating from the University of Paris, now solidly pro-English, this is the first piece of evidence indicating the university's interest in Joan of Arc. This institutional concern should certainly be construed as a frightening confirmation of the success of Gerson's former initiative on discernment. His various treatments of the subject,

90 Gerson, De puella Aurelianensi, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 663. 91 Gerson, De puella Aurelianensi, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 664. 92 Gerson, De puella Aurelianensi, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 665. In this justification, he

furthers Joan's case for sanctity by comparing her visions of angels with the comparable sightings of St. Cecilia, explaining their privilege in terms of the angelic affinity for virgins. Interestingly, Gerson does not take advantage of the cross-dressing female saints in the hagiographic tradition, even though one of Joan's voices, Margaret, had availed herself of this strategy to avoid marriage-at least in one of the versions of her tale cited in James of Voragine's popular Golden Legend. See Marie Delcourt, "Le complexe de Diane dans l'hagiographie chretienne," Revue de l'histoire des religions 143 (1958): 18-28; compare Charles Wood, Joan ofArc and Richard III: Sex, Saints, and Government in the Middle Ages (New York, 1988), 136-37.

93 Gerson, De puella Aurelianensi, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 665.

94 The treatise is edited and translated by Noel Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage sur Jeanne d'Arc: Reponse d'un clerc parisien a l'apologie de la pucelle par Gerson (1429)," Annuaire-Bulletin de La Societe d'histoire de France 43 (1906): 161-79. For dating, see p. 165. Also see Peyronnet's discussion in "Gerson, Charles VII et Jeanne d'Arc," 358-59; and Fraioli, Joan ofArc, 159-72.

in addition to his university-sponsored lectures on mysticism, had fostered a generation of proteges on discernment. The anonymous treatise's full command of its tools is reflected in the title-accordingly called On the Good and the Evil Spirit.95

This tract is a veritable evil twin of Gerson's work in every sense of the word, not merely of the treatise defending Joan but of all his former endeavors on spiritual discernment. Even its most basic strategy, the simple inversion of a defense into an attack, was one that we have witnessed Gerson employing in his negative recasting of Alphonse of Pecha's defense of Bridget of Sweden. The Anglo-Burgundian treatise existed in similar parasitical relation to Gerson's originary host.

With a view to exploitation, the anonymous author was also quick to comprehend where Gerson had left himself most vulnerable: the constant recourse to the cult of saints. Throughout his treatise, Gerson had relied on contemporary criteria for canonization to assess Joan's achievement, making perceptions of sanctity central to his defense of Joan. While the often-reiterated reminder of the noncompulsory nature of veneration simultaneously softened his claims on her behalf, this position was largely sustained by contrasting pious but optional devotion with compulsory adherence to church doctrine. Dissent in the latter category was inexcusable and "ought finally to be exterminated by iron and fire, according to the ecclesiastical sentences carried against heretics. This point can be made with a useful proverb: fame, faith, and the eye do not suffer tricks."96

The appeal to contemporary criteria of sanctity and heresy, and the common set of procedures intended to separate the two poles, was on a continuum with Gerson's earlier insistence that living teachers be subjected to a "great inquisition." Even so, it was a false step. Credence in the divinely inspired nature of Joan's mission was seemingly inseparable from claims on behalf of Joan's divine inspiration. By likening belief in Joan's mission to the pious veneration of saints, Gerson was leaving her insufficiently insulated from charges that she was, or believed herself to be, worthy of veneration-a level of hubris that would immediately point to her unworthiness.

The anonymous On the Good and the Evil Spirit eagerly took up the gauntlet from where Gerson had unfortunately let it drop, at once beginning with an avowed citation of Gregory IX's Decretales, affirming the solidarity of orthodoxy and condemning superstitious novelties.?? Those who give credence to the claims that the Maid and her mission are divinely inspired are acting without the evidence of miracles or the testimony of the Scripture, thus willfully contravening canon law, even as the Maid's claims should lay her open to suspicions of heresy." Had she truly been sent by God, she would hardly wear male clothing. Indeed, by claiming

95 There is a record for September 22, 1429, that 8 sol. was paid for a copy of the treatise De bono et malino spiritu [sic]. See H. Denifle, ed., Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis (Paris, 1897), no. 2370,

4: 515. Others have also recognized that, while Gerson's opinion of Joan was rejected, his methodology was used by those who tried her. See Sullivan, Interrogation of Joan, 33-34; Christian, Apparitions in Late Medieval Spain, 92-93.

96 Gerson, De puella Aurelianensi, in Glorieux, Oeuvres completes, 9: 662. 97 Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage," 176. See X.l.l.l, in Friedberg, Decretalium collectiones, cols. 5-6; X.l.4.9, col. 4l. 98 Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage," 175. See X.5.7.12 (under the general rubric De haereticis), in Friedberg, Decretalium collectiones, cols. 784-87. As Valois notes, this canon figured prominently in

that her male clothing is dictated by her mission, her defenders are not only guilty of attempting to defend a sin but even fail in their exculpatory function, since many evil things are done under the guise of good. A woman's assumption of male dress is described as "an unrestrained opportunity for fornicating and performing manly acts."?? Moreover, the true faith would never be party to such a scandal, even if it meant the loss of France to the English.'?"

In turning to the alleged benefits produced by the Maid's deeds, the counterattack quickens. The anonymous author claims that, rather than Joan being an agent of peace, hostilities had increased since her appearance, while Joan herself was bellicose and immoral. Thus God would never have incited her to undertake a battle on the Assumption and the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, proof that her inspiration was diabolical. More damning still is the allegation that Joan had permitted children to offer her candles on bended knee-thereby encouraging the sin of idolatry.t'" Indeed, the anonymous cleric goes on to argue that already, in many regions, actual images of Joan were being venerated as if she were dead and canonized-an outrage against the faith since no one may be honored as a saint while still living. Nor should an individual be venerated after death unless already canonized.t'? He thus argues that Joan's position is contrary to the faith, and then proceeds to invoke, by inversion, Gerson's words twice in quick succession, pointing to the dire consequences of Joan's behavior. First, the proverb "fame, faith, and the eye do not suffer tricks" is cited. In this instance, however, it is no longer intended to accentuate the distance between noncompulsory veneration and compulsory articles of the faith, thus removing all necessity from belief in Joan's mission. Rather, it is used to demonstrate that Joan, in permitting herself to be worshiped, had crossed a line and become a danger to the faith. He then reverses Gerson's contention that the deed of the Maid can be supported, as Gerson put it, "with the piety of the Catholic faith and sincere devotion," instead using the same phrase to argue that she moves the simple to disrespect of God, imperiling their souls and

Joan's process of condemnation ("Un nouveau ternoignage," 175 n. 3). See the final deliberations of the doctors and masters of Rouen, in Tisset, Proces, 1: 320.

99 Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage," 176. Out of the many canons cited supporting the contention against female cross-dressing, only the first is an explicit anathema on the practice from the Council of Gangra (circa 340). See Dist. 30, c. 6, Decretum Magistri Gratiani, vol. 1 of Friedberg, Corpus iuris canonici, col. 108. The association between the assumption of male dress and fornication is, interestingly, supported by Innocent Ill's condemnation of a Spanish abbess who was performing certain sacerdotal (and hence masculine) functions, such as hearing confession (X.5.38.10, in Friedberg, Deeretalium collectiones, cols. 886-87).

100 Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage," 176-77.

101 Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage," 177-78. Joan was repeatedly questioned about her raid on Paris, which occurred on the Virgin's Nativity, at her trial (Tisset, Proces, 1: 53, 141,267-68). For her part, Joan claimed that it was not a mortal sin, since she was confident that she would be aware if she had committed one (1: 152). The anonymous Parisian also takes note of Joan's raid on the feast of Mary's Nativity (Shirley, Parisian Journal, ann. 1429, p. 240). At her trial, her various interlocutors likewise tried to show that she received inappropriate reverence from various individuals (Tisset, Proces, 1: 100, 101).

102 Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage," 178. In support of his indictment, the anonymous critic cites

X.2.20.52 (which treats the necessity of carefully examining witnesses in processes of canonization) and the entire title for De reliquiis et veneratione sanetorum (X.3.45), which treats papal prerogative in canonization and forbids a profligate display of relics (Friedberg, Deeretalium collectiones, cols. 339, 650). Joan denied that she had anything to do with images being circulated of her, but she did admit to having seen one in the hands of a Scotsman (Tisset, Proces, 1: 98-99, 261).


subverting the faith. lo3 This contention is buttressed by demonstrating a link between idolatry and witchcraft:

Likewise . . . she seems to use sorcery ... when the aforesaid innocents offered the wax candles to her with the aforesaid veneration, she occasioned three drops of wax from that burning candle to be dropped over the heads of those making the offering, predicting to them that good would come to them from the virtue of that act, and thus the aforesaid offering is deemed idolatry and such a dropping is heresy with sorcery involved. And for that reason it concerns the inquisitor for the faith, by reason of his office, to inquire about the crime of heresy and punish.l?'

With. this blatant accusation of heresy, the author enjoins the university, bishop, and inquisitor to unite in suppressing the error. The legalistic momentum is briefly interrupted by a quotation from The Remedies for Love: "resist beginnings; too late is the medicine prepared." But there is nevertheless a bizarre appropriateness to this Ovidian interlude. This violently misogynistic work, a favorite in university circles, professed to teach men how best to resist the wiles of female seduction. lOS Moreover, Ovid's pseudo-medicinal strain sets up the canonistic climax to the treatise, which urges that "the putrid flesh should be cut off, and the scabby beasts repelled from the sheepfold"-an explicit citation from Gratian's Decretum.v» This conclusion, and the authority invoked, is in keeping with a central strategy of the treatise, which was to move the entire discourse more solidly into the orbit of canon law. And indeed, every one of its harsh contentions was buttressed by recourse to canonical procedure with heretics.

WHILE GERSON'S TREATISE is now generally understood as genuine, a question mark had traditionally hung over its authenticity, attributable to the saturation of the entire discussion with anxieties about forgery and counterfeit.t?? His legacy in spiritual discernment definitely helped to foster these doubts. As a modern biographer of Joan writes: "Gerson was ... a severe opponent of the many visionaries of the day and was quick to censure individual claims to divine guidance outside the rituals of the Church. It is unlikely Joan would have won such

103 Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage," 178. This is not the first time that the anonymous author tangles with Gerson directly. Earlier, he taunted Gerson for his use of Cato, arguing that if Gerson had read further he would have been properly warned that one should be sparing in one's praises, quoting the first line of this anonymous couplet: "Praise sparingly, for he whom you would often test [probans]; / one day will reveal whether he is a friend." It is appropriate, moreover, that in his citation, the anonymous author uses a version that enlists the word probare (prove) over the more usual laudare (praise), Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage," 176; see Boas, Disticha Catonis 4.28, 228 and 229 for this less common version.

104 Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage," 178-79. In support of bringing in an inquisitor, he cites VI.5.2.8, no. 4 (Friedberg, Decretalium collectiones, col. 1072). The charge that Joan dripped wax on the children's heads in order to tell their fortunes also crops up at her trial (Tisset, Proces, 1: 271).

105 Valois, "Un nouveau ternoignage," 179. The completion of the sentence, which the author does not cite, is "when the disease has gained strength by long delay" (Ovid, The Remedies for Love, 1.92,in Ovid: The Art of Love and Other Poems, J. H. Mozley, trans., 2d edn., Loeb Classical Library, Ovid, II [Cambridge, Mass., 1979], 185).

106 Valois, "Un nouveau temoignage," 179. Gratian is invoking Jerome (C.24 q.3 c.16, Friedberg, Decretum Magistri Gratiani, col. 995).

107 On doubts over authenticity, see Peyronnet, "Gerson, Charles VII et Jeanne d'Arc," 343-47.

partisanship from him."lo8Indeed, the cautious tenor of Gerson's defense (though, as I have implied, one of the signs of its authenticity) was sufficiently disappointing that Dorothy Wayman posited that the treatise in question was not the work of Gerson at all but a literal "bad copy" written from memory by an Anglo-Burgundian spy so that his side could refute Gerson's original.w? It is further discredited, in her eyes, by the fact that it "picks out for mention and argument the very points on which the Paris theologians at the Rouen Trial would find her guilty of heresy and witchcraft.t'U? Ironically, it was the twentieth-century discovery of its anonymous evil twin-On the Good and the Evil Spirit-and its antiphonal nature with Gerson's work that did much to vindicate the authenticity of Gerson's treatise.l!'

The antiphonal nature of the two treatises is indicative of Gerson's mixed legacy in spiritual discernment generally and female spirituality in particular. Not only was Gerson's approach a methodological triumph, but his additional recourse to the misogynistic tradition had sufficiently undermined the validity of female spirituality that "authentic" female spirituality could no longer exist without being subjected to this procedure. Living women were, hence, judged by the inquisitional standard hitherto reserved for church criminals, heretics, or dead candidates for sainthood. In other words, there was no stepping outside the discourse, whether to launch an attack or a defense. Indeed, there was no longer an "outside" to the discourse. The anonymous cleric thus capitalized on Gerson's earlier spade work, including Gerson's inevitable self-entrapment. While Gerson's self-interested efforts to maintain an overly disinterested separation from his subject may have had a hobbling effect, it was the evocation of the noncompulsory nature of the cult of the saints that sprang the trap, giving the anonymous cleric an undeniable advantage. For while Gerson was inhibited by the fact that Joan was still alive from making a full-fledged argument for her sanctity, his partial efforts raised a presumption against her. And there was nothing to prevent the unknown cleric from fleshing out the implicit scholastic objectiones and recasting Joan as a heretic.

According to an anonymous summary of Joan's trial of condemnation, produced around 1500, Gerson's assessment of Joan was registered at the proceedings as an authoritative and dissenting voice that contradicted the other theologians from Paris, who are described as condemning her "to flatter and please the king of England." But this account was penned with all the obstinate blindness of wishful hindsight, recasting history in light of Joan's recent trial of rehabilitation, under

108 Marina Warner, Joan ofArc: The Image of Female Heroism (London, 1981), 146.

109 See Dorothy G. Wayman, "The Chancellor and Jeanne d'Arc, February-July, A.D. 1429," Franciscan Studies 18 (1957): 273-305. Wayman instead posits that a more overtly positive defense, with the incipit De quadam puella, was the work of Gerson. The two treatises are appended to the end of her article. Francq, who believes that both treatises were composed by Gerson, translates De quadam puella in "Jean Gerson's Theological Treatise," 74-89. De quadam puella has frequently been attributed to Henry of Gorkheim, a master of arts who was born in England and received his license in theology around 1419. (He is listed as one of the masters deliberating over an intellectual heresy in Paris on November 30, 1413. See Denifle, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, no. 1908,4: 2000.) For critiques of Wayman's theory, see Peyronnet, "Gerson, Charles VII et Jeanne d'Arc," 347-48; Francq, "Jean Gerson's Theological Treatise," 70-72. Some scholars have accepted Wayman's theory, however. See, for example, Deborah Fraioli, "The Literary Image of Joan of Arc: Prior Influences," Speculum 56 (1981): 813-14.

110 Wayman, "Chancellor and Jeanne d'Arc," 282.

111 See Valois's introduction to the treatise, in "Un nouveau ternoignage," 162 and following.

taken in 1450, at which Gerson's treatise was produced.U-In fact, Gerson's treatise, which could more securely argue the claims of a dead as opposed to a living defendant, had finally found its rightful posthumous audience.

The antagonistic relation between Gerson and his anonymous critic reenacts the forces of bifurcation at work in Christendom in general and in the realm of female spirituality in particular. The conflict itself sketched out the possibility of two Joans: the one pious, good, and inspired by God, the other evil, depraved, and demonically inspired. This possibility was ultimately realized by a flesh and blood double. In 1436, five years after Joan's execution at the hands of a pro-English heretical inquisitional tribunal, the celebrated "false Joan" emerged. A female warrior, initially calling herself Claude, but eventually appropriating Joan's name and even her identity, managed to convince a number of people that she had miraculously evaded death, including Joan's (one can only believe) craven brothers.U>

The false Joan was active between 1436 and 1440. But already around 1437, well before her drama had played itself out, John Nider's extremely influential Formicarium attempted to absorb and resecure the anomaly that she represented within the literature of spiritual discernment. Nider's Formicarium (literally, "the ant colony"), written in the familiar dialogue form between Theologus and Piger (literally, "dull-witted"), was intended to alert the clerical community to the many kinds of spiritual and moral depravity on the loose in contemporary Christendom. The rubric introducing the category under which Joan was to be discussed suggests how her example would be mobilized in the context of the work's pastoral aims: "How venereal delectation ought to be fled. Concerning women under the virile shape saying publicly that they have been sent by God. And concerning the three things that rarely hold the middle: the tongue, an ecclesiastic, and a woman, who in good things are best but in bad things become the worst."114 Beginning with a disquisition on how certain ants feed on cadavers, a predilection he likens to those who enjoy perverse lusts, Nider further associates such practices with those who are attracted to the female sinner. Woman is then represented as an exemplar of the two interrelated sins of idolatry and fornication; biblical texts liken her to excrement and cadavers trampled in the street. At this point, the disciple interrupts

112 The anonymous summary is edited by Jules Quicherat in Proces de condamnation et de rehabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc (Paris, 1847), 4: 260. Gerson's treatise is reissued on 3: 298-306.

113 Much of our information about the false Joan comes from the journal of the anonymous Parisian, which reports on how she was brought to trial by the University of Paris and the Parlement, although we do not learn the outcome (Shirley, Parisian Journal, ann. 1440, 337-38). The documents on the false Joan have been gathered in Quicherat, Proces de condamnation et de rehabilitation, 5: 321-36. According to Pierre Sala, writing in the early sixteenth century, the false Joan eventually achieved an audience with Charles VII, in the course of which she broke into tears and confessed her ruse (4: 281). For further discussion, see A. Lecoy de la Marche, "Une fausse Jeanne d'Arc," Revue des questions historiques 10 (1871): 562-82; Vauchez, "Jeanne d'Arc," 166-67; Vauchez, Laity in the Middle Ages, 262-63. Also see Boureau's discussion of the possibility of a good and evil Joan of Arc in Myth of Pope Joan, 177 and following. The false Joan's status as "real" sustains an interesting doubleentendre: sufficient contemporaneous sources assure us that she did, in fact, exist. And yet, the false Joan could be construed as a discursive remainder-s-confected from language's inability to exhaust the recesses of the Lacanian "Real." For a discussion of this concept, see Lacanian interpreter Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), 29-47; Zizek, Enjoy Your Symptom! Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out (New York, 1992), 20-22. Note the extent to which the horrifying "double" is accommodated within this discourse.

114 John Nider, Formicarium 5.8 (Douai, 1602), 383.


Theologus's remarkable flow of thoughts with the question: "Are there in our time any good men deceived by magicians or witches, according to your judgment?" This question directly prompts Theologus to respond with an anecdote he had heard recently from his confrere, the inquisitor Henry Kalteisen, about "Claude," the false Joan. First appearing in Cologne, this cross-dressed woman conducted herself as a man in revelry and in arms. Interestingly, she offered to intervene in a contemporary episcopal case of doubling: "at that time the church see of Trier had two men contending for it, and was gravely troubled, and she boasted that she was willing and able to enthrone one of the parties; just as the virgin Joan ... did with the French King Charles a little earlier, confirming him in his own kingdom. Indeed, the woman affirmed she was that same Joan, revived by God."115 Our female warrior's general demeanor, compounded by certain magical tricks she liked to play, attracted the attention of the aforementioned inquisitor. She very soon beat a hasty retreat, first into France, where she married a knight, but then moving on to Metz, where she became a priest's concubine: "which clearly showed by which spirit she was led." With no further ado, Nider enters into his summary of Joan of Arc's career. The "original" Joan is thus presented as a sequel to the "false" Joan. Nider, however, characteristically recuses himself from passing explicit judgment on the "original" Joan. Instead, he foregrounds Joan as a question under discussion, in need of resolution: "Laypeople, clerics, and monks all were in doubt as to what spirit ruled her, diabolical or divine."116 Joan has literally and metaphorically been "framed" in such a way that the reader almost has to pronounce against her. In a certain sense, the rhetorically constrained reader has been "framed" as well, forced to do the work of the inquisitor.

As representative of the genre of spiritual discernment, Nider's Formicarium prolongs many Gersonian initiatives.P? Peopled with Nider's acquaintances, their reminiscences, as well as his own, Formicarium is a veritable comic book of contemporary spiritual events. But, as with comic books, one has to remember that what is more accessible is not necessarily uncomplicated in its affiliations and final effects. Nider's engagement with the contemporary instance of these popularly celebrated doubles draws on some of the most sophisticated discursive practices of his day. He relies on the convention of scholarly detachment, which was so important to Gerson, by refusing to choose between the two Joans. Indeed, his bifurcated representation is generated by those forms of scholastic argument that encourage the production of a monstrous opposite as the double of any positive representation.

This bifurcation-explored in Gerson's defense of Joan and its anonymous opposite-may be glimpsed in Nider just as it once again disappears from view. For

115 Nider, Formicarium 5.8, 385-86. Note that the count of Armagnac had written to the real Joan of Arc to ask which of the three men currently claiming to be the pope should be obeyed-a question that she left unanswered as she was just mounting her horse when the letter arrived. See Tisset, Proces,

1: 81-82; also see Tisset's historical commentary, 3: 114-17.

116 Nider, Formicarium 5.8, 387. For Nider's similar refusal to pass sentence on female spirituality, also with deleterious consequences, see Dyan Elliott, "The Physiology of Rapture and Female Spirituality," in Medieval Theology and the Natural Body, Peter Biller and Alastair Minnis, eds, (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1997), 170-72.

117 He probably did not know Gerson's treatise, but he seemed to be familiar with the anonymous On the Good and the Evil Spirit (see Denifle, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, no. 2370, 4: 515).


the interdependence of the positive and negative loans raises the likelihood of their ultimate reconvergence. In Nider's rendition, the distance between the false Joan and the "authentic" Joan of Arc finally disappears, as these inherently unstable positive and negative binaries collapse back into a single flawed entity. The lost possibility of Joan's authentic and uncorrupted spirituality coincides with the first stages of a more pervasive effacement of Europe's faith in positive female spirituality.

Dyan Elliott is a professor of history and adjunct professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. She is the author of Spiritual Marriage: Sexual Abstinence in Medieval Wedlock (1993) and Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages (1999). Elliott is a cultural historian who particularly focuses on gender, spirituality, and sexuality in the Middle Ages. She received her doctorate at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, in 1989, writing her dissertation under Michael Sheehan. She is currently working on a book that assesses the way in which female spirituality, originally enlisted on behalf of orthodoxy for its avid support of church doctrine, was gradually criminalized over the course of the Middle Ages. This process was abetted by the gradual infiltration of the inquisitional process into most aspects of Christian life.

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