Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date





The most complete manuscript of Hrotsvit's writings, Bavarian State Library Clm 14485 (the Munich codex), includes prefaces, dedications, and other addresses to readers in which Hrotsvit names herself and provides information about her education, writing practices, and purposes. If this manuscript had not survived, we might have some of her plays and poems extant in other manuscripts, but we would know little or nothing about Hrotsvit, and we would likely not be able to imagine that such a scholar and writer could have existed. By naming and identifying herself as an author and addressing readers in the first-person, not only in the prefatory texts but also within the poems, Hrotsvit presents herself as an important actor throughout the manuscript and creates significant parallels between her actions and those of the characters in her poems and plays. She also invites readers to see parallels between herself, her characters, Christ's apostles, and John the Baptizer. Furthermore, in the world created by Hrotsvit's writings, all words and actions are always relevant to one of the main themes of her poems and plays: conversion. Readers, writers, and characters in her writing have two choices (which in a sense is one choice): they can turn toward God and be saved by grace, or they can turn away from God. Some, like the apostles, choose in response to Christ's mandate; others, like John the Baptizer, are pre-cursors of Christ. For all, whether already Christian or pagan, conversion involves the Augustinian "turning" of the mind and will toward God. And all have a shared responsibility not only to welcome grace "as a free gift that elevates us to a new and unmerited level of existence" but also to use their God-given talents to contribute to the redemption of the world.

Chapter of

A Companion to Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (fl. 960):Contextual and Interpretive Approaches

Part of

Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition;vol. 34


Phyllis Brown
Stephen L.Wailes


Copyright 2012 Brill. All Rights Reserved.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.