Institute of Historical Studies
Institute of Historical Studies

Workshop: "Gendering the Novitiate: Imagining the Novice in a Time of Reform" by Jacob Doss, University of Texas at Austin (New Work in Progress Series)

Wed, February 12, 2020 | GAR 4.100

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

This paper examines the various ways monastic practice and discourse gendered the novitiate
after monastic reform groups stopped accepting child recruits in the early twelfth century. The
most influential monastic reform group, the Cistercians, began thinking about the place of new
recruits in their communities in earnest between the 1130s to around 1160. This was necessitated
by their most active moment of expansion. In doing do so they relied on gendered metaphors that
employed violent or erotic secular images that drew from the recruits' pre-monastic experience,
to imagine the ideal, masculine Cistercian novice. The imagined novice could then be deployed
in several contexts as, as a pedagogical tool, a defense for their strenuous way life, a figure of
critique of rival monastic groups, or as a way to envision the nature of spiritual progression. By
employing a variety of sources from hagiography, to treatises on monastic formation, parables,
and sermons, this paper will address the evolving place of novices in the formation of monastic
hierarchy, the values meant to be instilled in a novice, and the ways monks gendered the
language of vice and virtue. This chapter bridges the gap between a chapter that specifically
addresses the institutional creation of the Cistercian novitiate with the next chapter that addresses
the evolution of novice formation over the last third of the twelfth century and the beginning of
the thirteenth century, which in response to the institutionalization of the order began adapting
old textual genres to develop new pedagogical practices that addressed a more regular influx of

Jacob Doss is a doctoral candidate specializing High Medieval European religion, specifically twelfthcentury
monastic reform and gender. His research focuses on the intersection of religious
formation and martial rhetoric, particularly how religious discourses co-opted, constructed, and
normalized martial masculinities. His dissertation is titled “Making Monastic Men: Reforming
the Novitiate in the Long Twelfth Century” and has been supported by the University of Texas’
Department of History, the American Historical Association’s Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant, The
Medieval Academy of America's John Boswell Dissertation Grant, the American Catholic
Historical Association's Graduate Student Research Grant, and the Hill Museum & Manuscript
Library’s Heckman Stipend. Read more about his work at:

Martha Newman
Associate Professor in the Departments of History and Religious Studies
University of Texas at Austin

Tiana Wilson
Doctoral Student in the History Department,
Graduate Research Assistant, Institute for Historical Studies, and
Coordinator, New Work in Progress Series
University of Texas at Austin

Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to to sign-up to attend and receive the pre-circulated paper. Refreshments provided to all who RSVP. The Institute for Historical Studies is committed to sustainable practices and minimizing waste. To that end, we have eliminated all bottled water and encourage attendees to bring their own reusable canteens to fill at our first-floor bottle-refilling station.

Sponsored by: Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History, and Center for European Studies

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