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Chapter Summary

This introductory chapter presents an overview of this book, which explores negative images of wanderers, positive portrayals of devout female pilgrims, and more contested cases, as well as the range of complex social pressures in which these interpretations were enmeshed. The popularity of pilgrimage was given a tremendous boost by a number of developments in the high Middle Ages. There is a much-lamented problem in studying the majority of pre-modern social or cultural experience, in that the vast majority of it is passed on to us in texts created by a literate, clerical, and above all, tiny minority. Among that minority, men outnumber women so substantially as to make the task of uncovering women's experiences seem impossible. Nonetheless, the ideal first step is to look at those rare sources wherein a woman did express herself directly.

Keywords: female pilgrims; Middle Ages; wanderers



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