Godelinde Gertrude Perk Joins the Team with a Project on Medieval Nuns

Photo of Godelinde PerkI joined the Lived Religion and the Changing Meaning(s) of Disability from the Late Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution project in August 2023, and am thrilled to be part of the team. The religious women my research focuses on literally lived religion, as in, they woke up thinking about God and went to bed thinking about God. Moreover, the lived experience of disabled religious women differed from that of women not living in convents; on the one hand, the community could offer unconditional support and care, yet some disabilities prevented these women from taking vows or performing the duties assigned to them by that self-same community. The interplay between communal religious life, gender, and disability remains underexplored; my project, “Cripping Sisterhood: Community and Asceticism in Low Countries Sister-books And Northern German Nuns’ Letters”, therefore approaches medieval disability through late medieval female-authored texts from religious communities (and the precepts of disability studies. It dissects how communal living and ascetic practices determine what minds and bodies are perceived as “normal”, disabled and/or different, what physical and neurological differences texts from religious communities privilege with spiritual power, and how the lived experience of disabled women in a religious community relates to that of disabled women not in a religious community.

Wooden statue of an abbess, late 15th century. Museum Catharijneconvent.

My research has revolved around medieval women’s writings in northern European vernaculars and lived religion for a decade. I hold a PhD in English literature from the University of Umeå, with a dissertation on Julian of Norwich (c. 1343–1416) “Julian, God, and the Art of Storytelling: A Narrative Analysis of the Works of Julian of Norwich.” Before moving to Tampere, I was Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the University of Oxford with an EC-funded MSCA-IF project, ‘Women Making Memories: Liturgy and the Remembering Female Body in Medieval Holy Women’s Texts’, as well as a Fulford Junior Research Fellow (Somerville).

Image credit: Abbess, late 15th century, walnut, 78 x 27 x 18 cm, Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, the Netherlands. https://adlib.catharijneconvent.nl/Details/collect/234 (Photo: Ruben de Heer)