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Using queer theory to untangle all types of nonnormative sexual identities, Tison Pugh uses Chaucer’s work to expose the ongoing tension in the Middle Ages between an erotic culture that glorified love as an ennobling passion and an anti-erotic religious and philosophical tradition that denigrated love and (perhaps especially) its enactments. Chaucer’s (Anti‑)Eroticisms and the Queer Middle Ages considers the many ways in which anti-eroticisms complicate the conventional image of Chaucer. With chapters addressing such topics as mutual masochism, homosocial brotherhood, necrotic erotics, queer families, and the eroticisms of Chaucer’s God, Chaucer’s (Anti‑)Eroticisms will forever change the way readers see the Canterbury Tales and Chaucer’s other masterpieces. For Chaucer, erotic pursuits establish the thrust and tenor of many of his narratives, as they also expose the frustrations inherent in pursuing desires frowned upon by the religious foundations of Western medieval culture. One cannot love freely within an ideological framework that polices sexuality and privileges the anti-erotic Christian ideals of virginity and chastity, yet loving queerly creates escapes from social structures inimical to amour and its expressions in the medieval period. Thus Chaucer is not just England’s foundational love poet, he is also England’s foundational queer poet.
The authors—recognized historians, ethnologists, folklorists coming from four continents—present the latest research findings on the relationship, coexistence and conflicts of popular belief systems, Judeo-Christian mythology and demonology in medieval and modern Europe. The present volume focuses on the divergence between Western and Eastern evolution, on the different relationship of learned demonology to popular belief systems in the two parts of Europe. It discusses the conflict of saints, healers, seers, shamans with the representatives of evil; the special function of escorting, protecting, possessing, harming and healing spirits; the role of the dead, the ghosts, of pre-Christian, Jewish and Christian spirit-world, the antagonism of the devil and the saint.
Sources in Translation, including "The Capture of Damietta" by Oliver of Paderborn
During the thirteenth century, the widespread conviction that the Christian lands in Syria and Palestine were of utmost importance to Christendom, and that their loss was a sure sign of God's displeasure with Christian society, pervaded nearly all levels of thought. Yet this same society faced other crises: religious dissent and unorthodox beliefs were proliferating in western Europe, and the powers exercised, or claimed, by the kings of Europe were growing rapidly.
The sources presented here illustrate the rising criticism of the changing Crusade idea. They reflect a sharpened awareness among Europeans of themselves as a community of Christians and the slow beginnings of the secular culture and political organization of Europe.
The Eusebius Gallicanus Sermon Collection and the Power of the Church in Late Antique Gaul
Lisa Kaaren Bailey’s Christianity’s Quiet Success: The Eusebius Gallicanus Sermon Collection and the Power of the Church in Late Antique Gaul is the first major study of the Eusebius Gallicanus collection of anonymous, multi-authored sermons from fifth- and sixth-century Gaul. Bailey sheds new light on these sermons, which were strikingly popular and influential from late antiquity to the High Middle Ages, as the large number of surviving manuscripts attests. They were used for centuries by clergy as a preaching guide and by monks and pious lay people as devotional reading. Bailey’s analysis demonstrates the extent to which these stylistically simple and straightforward sermons emphasize consensus, harmony, and mutuality as the central values of a congregation. Preachers encouraged tolerance among their congregants and promoted a model of leadership that placed themselves at the center of the community rather than above it. These sermons make clear the delicate balancing act required of late antique and warly medieval pastors as they attempted to explain the Christian faith and also maintain the clerical control considered necessary for a universal church. The Eusebius Gallicanus collection gives us fresh insight inyo the process by which the Catholic Church influenced the lives of Western Europeans.
In Christine de Pizan and the Fight for France, Tracy Adams offers a reevaluation of Christine de Pizan’s literary engagement with contemporary politics. Adams locates Christine’s works within a detailed narrative of the complex history of the dispute between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs, the two largest political factions in fifteenth-century France. Contrary to what many scholars have long believed, Christine consistently supported the Armagnac faction throughout her literary career and maintained strong ties to Louis of Orleans and Isabeau of Bavaria. Adams claims that Christine’s writings not only voiced support for Louis and Isabeau in opposition to John of Burgundy, but also contributed to defining kingship and creating authority in France’s turbulent political climate. In addition, Christine promoted, defended, and profoundly affected the nature of female regency as it developed in France from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. Alternating between chapters focusing on the historical context of the Armagnac-Burgundian feud at different moments, and chapters offering close readings of Christine’s poetry and prose, Adams shows the ways in which the writer was closely engaged with and influenced the volatile politics of her time.
The Films of Olivier, Zeffirelli, Branagh, and Almereyda
Hamlet has inspired four outstanding film adaptations that continue to delight a wide and varied audience and to offer provocative new interpretations of Shakespeare’s most popular play. Cinematic Hamlet contains the first scene-by-scene analysis of the methods used by Laurence Olivier, Franco Zeffirelli, Kenneth Branagh, and Michael Almereyda to translate Hamlet into highly distinctive and remarkably effective films.
The Invention of a Religious Order in Twelfth-Century Europe
According to the received history, the Cistercian order was founded in Cîteaux, France, in 1098 by a group of Benedictine monks who wished for a stricter community. They sought a monastic life that called for extreme asceticism, rejection of feudal revenues, and manual labor for monks. Their third leader, Stephen Harding, issued a constitution, the Carta Caritatis, that called for the uniformity of custom in all Cistercian monasteries and the establishment of an annual general chapter meeting at Cîteaux.
The Cistercian order grew phenomenally in the mid-twelfth century, reaching beyond France to Portugal in the west, Sweden in the north, and the eastern Mediterranean, ostensibly through a process of apostolic gestation, whereby members of a motherhouse would go forth to establish a new house. The abbey at Clairvaux, founded by Bernard in 1115, was alone responsible for founding 68 of the 338 Cistercian abbeys in existence by 1153. But this well-established view of a centrally organized order whose founders envisioned the shape and form of a religious order at its prime is not borne out in the historical record.
Through an investigation of early Cistercian documents, Constance Hoffman Berman proves that no reliable reference to Stephen's Carta Caritatis appears before the mid-twelfth century, and that the document is more likely to date from 1165 than from 1119. The implications of this fact are profound. Instead of being a charter by which more than 300 Cistercian houses were set up by a central authority, the document becomes a means of bringing under centralized administrative control a large number of loosely affiliated and already existing monastic houses of monks as well as nuns who shared Cistercian customs. The likely reason for this administrative structuring was to check the influence of the overdominant house of Clairvaux, which threatened the authority of Cîteaux through Bernard's highly successful creation of new monastic communities.
For centuries the growth of the Cistercian order has been presented as a spontaneous spirituality that swept western Europe through the power of the first house at Cîteaux. Berman suggests instead that the creation of the religious order was a collaborative activity, less driven by centralized institutions; its formation was intended to solve practical problems about monastic administration. With the publication of The Cistercian Evolution, for the first time the mechanisms are revealed by which the monks of Cîteaux reshaped fact to build and administer one of the most powerful and influential religious orders of the Middle Ages.
Beguine Communities in the Medieval Low Countries, 1200-1565
Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2002
In the early thirteenth century, semireligious communities of women began to form in the cities and towns of the Low Countries. These beguines, as the women came to be known, led lives of contemplation and prayer and earned their livings as laborers or teachers.
In Cities of Ladies, the first history of the beguines to appear in English in fifty years, Walter Simons traces the transformation of informal clusters of single women to large beguinages. These veritable single-sex cities offered lower- and middle-class women an alternative to both marriage and convent life. While the region's expanding urban economies initially valued the communities for their cheap labor supply, severe economic crises by the fourteenth century restricted women's opportunities for work. Church authorities had also grown less tolerant of religious experimentation, hailing as subversive some aspects of beguine mysticism. To Simons, however, such accusations of heresy against the beguines were largely generated from a profound anxiety about their intellectual ambitions and their claims to a chaste life outside the cloister. Under ecclesiastical and economic pressure, beguine communities dwindled in size and influence, surviving only by adopting a posture of restraint and submission to church authorities.
Literature, Culture, and Ideology in Late Medieval England
In The Claims of Poverty, Kate Crassons explores a widespread ideological crisis concerning poverty that emerged in the aftermath of the plague in late medieval England. She identifies poverty as a central preoccupation in texts ranging from Piers Plowman and Wycliffite writings to The Book of Margery Kempe and the York cycle plays. Crassons shows that these and other works form a complex body of writing in which poets, dramatists, and preachers anxiously wrestled with the status of poverty as a force that is at once a sacred imitation of Christ and a social stigma; a voluntary form of life and an unwelcome hardship; an economic reality and a spiritual disposition. Crassons argues that literary texts significantly influenced the cultural conversation about poverty, deepening our understanding of its urgency as a social, economic, and religious issue. These texts not only record debates about the nature of poverty as a form of either vice or virtue, but explore epistemological and ethical aspects of the debates. When faced with a claim of poverty, people effectively become readers interpreting the signs of need in the body and speech of their fellow human beings. The literary and dramatic texts of late medieval England embodied the complexity of such interaction with particular acuteness, revealing the ethical stakes of interpretation as an act with direct material consequences. As The Claims of Poverty demonstrates, medieval literature shaped perceptions about who is defined as "poor," and in so doing it emerged as a powerful cultural force that promoted competing models of community, sanctity, and justice.