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From Within & Without: the Dutch Anchorite Suster Bertken 1426/7 - 1514

From her cell on the south-facing wall of the Buurkerk in Utrecht, Dutch anchorite Suster Bertken (1426/7 – 1514) spent 57 years composing mystical poetry and songs, praying, and giving counsel to passersby in return for food. This research project, 2013 - 2014, took a cross-disciplinary look at the gesture of ‘walling in’ that Bertken undertook at the age of 30, and draws this gesture, her life and the writing she produced, into relation with feminist histories, literature and art practice from the 20th and early 21st centuries.

The paper that resulted from a period of research in Glasgow and Utrecht was first presented at the Buildings & the Body Symposium: Exploring Living and Building in the Medieval and Early Modern World, at Southampton University, 27 - 28 June 2014, and later published on

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