Much of the research into medieval anchoritism to date has focused primarily on its liminal and elite status within the socio-religious cultures of its day. The anchorite has long been depicted as both solitary and alone, almost entirely removed from community and living a life of permanent withdrawal and isolation: in effect dead to the world. The essays in this volume, stemming from a variety of cross-disciplinary approaches and methodologies, lay down a challenge to this position, breaking new ground in their presentation of the medieval anchorite and other types of enclosed solitary as playing a central role within the devotional life of a whole range of complex and multifaceted communities: ones that were simultaneously synchronic and diachronic, physical and metaphysical, religious, secular, textual - and gendered. It therefore offers its readers a new way of understanding the operations of the solitary life in the Middle Ages and its interdependence with a whole array of communities, ultimately adding to our knowledge of how spiritual "aloneness" could be pursued ardently, even in the midst of communal interaction.
Contributors: Diana Denissen, Clare Dowding, Clarck Dreishen, Cate Gunn, Catherine Innes-Parker, E.A. Jones, Dorothy Kim, Godelinde Perk, James Plumtree, Michelle Sauer, Sophie Sawicka-Sykes, Andrew Thornton OSB,