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NUI Galway’s 5th Annual Medieval Studies Lecture: “Hidden Sins: Miraculous Mind Reading and the Confessional”

October 17, 2018 @ 7:00 pm


October 17, 2018
7:00 pm


O hEocha Theatre (Arts Millennium Building 250)


Kimberly LoPrete

“Hidden Sins: Miraculous Mind Reading and the Confessional”

 Barbara Newman,

Professor of English, Religious Studies and Classics

Northwestern University


Shortly after the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 mandated annual confession for all Christians, a new type of miracle began to appear in saints’ Lives. Holy women and a few lay brothers–but curiously, not priests–came to be credited with miraculous mind reading. They could discern hidden, unconfessed sins by telepathy or clairvoyance, a potent form of knowledge that they used for both pastoral care and public shaming. This talk will investigate a group of mind-reading saints from the 13th-century Low Countries, asking how they exercised their charism and what ideological purposes it served.


Professor Newman (Ph.D. Yale), a past president of the Medieval Academy of America, is known for her work on medieval religious culture, comparative literature, and women’s spirituality; see further at https://www.english.northwestern.edu/people/faculty/newman-barbara.html


Among her better known books are  God & the Goddesses: Vision, Poetry, and Belief in the Middle Ages (2003); Frauenlob’s Song of Songs: A Medieval German Poet & His Masterpiece (2006); Sister of Wisdom: St.. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine (1987); Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular against the Sacred (2013).


She is also a noted translator of Hildegard of Bingen’s collected songs,  Thomas of Cantimpré’s saints’ lives, Mechthild of Hackeborn’s visionary writings, and 2 collections of 12th-century love letters.


Prof. Newman has been a Fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Alice Berline Kaplan Center for the Humanities at Northwestern. She currently holds the John Evans Chair of Latin Language and Literature and previously held a Charles Deering McCormick Chair of Teaching Excellence (2003-06).