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Preaching, Performance, and Gender in the Later Middle Ages
Texts by, for, and about preachers from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries reveal an intense interest in the preacher's human nature and its intersection with his "angelic" role. Far from simply denigrating embodiment or excluding it from consideration, these works recognize its centrality to the office of preacher and the ways in which preachers, like Christ, needed humanness to make their performance of doctrine effective for their audiences. At the same time, the texts warned of the preacher's susceptibility to the fleshly failings of lust, vainglory, deception, and greed. Preaching's problematic juxtaposition of the earthly and the spiritual made images of women preachers, real and fictional, key to understanding and exploiting the power, as well as the dangers, of the feminized flesh.
Addressing the underexamined bodies of the clergy in light of both medieval and modern discussions of female authority and the body of Christ in medieval culture, Angels and Earthly Creatures reinserts women into the history of preaching and brings together discourses that would have been intertwined in the Middle Ages but are often treated separately by scholars. The examination of handbooks for preachers as literary texts also demonstrates their extensive interaction with secular literary traditions, explored here with particular reference to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
Through a close and insightful reading of a wide variety of texts and figures, including Hildegard of Bingen, Birgitta of Sweden, and Catherine of Siena, Waters offers an original examination of the preacher's unique role as an intermediary—standing between heaven and earth, between God and people, participating in and responsible to both sides of that divide.
The Supernatural and Its Visual Representation
Supernatural phenomena and causalities played an important role in medieval society. Religious practice was relying upon a set of cult images and the sacral status of these depictions of divine or supernatural persons became the object of heated debates and provoked iconoclastic reactions. The miraculous intervention of saints or other divine agents, the wondrous realities beyond understanding, or the manifestations of magic attributed to diabolic forces, were contained by a variety of discourses, described and discussed in religion, philosophy, chronicles, literature and fiction, and also in a large number of pictures and material objects. The nine essays in this collection discusses how supernatural phenomena – especially angels and devils – found visual manifestation in Latin and Eastern Christianity as well as Judaism in the late medieval, early renaissance period.
Art historian Meyer Schapiro defined style as “the constant form—and sometimes the constant elements, qualities, and expression—in the art of an individual or group.” Today, style is frequently overlooked as a critical tool, with our interest instead resting with the personal, the ephemeral, and the fragmentary. Anglo-Saxon Styles demonstrates just how vital style remains in a methodological and theoretical prism, regardless of the object, individual, fragment, or process studied. Contributors from a variety of disciplines—including literature, art history, manuscript studies, philology, and more— consider the definitions and implications of style in Anglo-Saxon culture and in contemporary scholarship. They demonstrate that the idea of style as a “constant form” has its limitations, and that style is in fact the ordering of form, both verbal and visual. Anglo-Saxon texts and images carry meanings and express agendas, presenting us with paradoxes and riddles that require us to keep questioning the meanings of style.
Contacts and Concepts in Medieval Britain
Traces of the living animal run across the entire corpus of medieval writing and reveal how pervasively animals mattered in medieval thought and practice. In fascinating scenes of cross-species encounters, a raven offers St. Cuthbert a lump of lard that waterproofs his visitors' boots for a whole year, a scholar finds inspiration for his studies in his cat's perfect focus on killing mice, and a dispossessed knight wins back his heritage only to give it up again in order to save the life of his warhorse. Readers have often taken such encounters to be merely figurative or fanciful, but Susan Crane discovers that these scenes of interaction are firmly grounded in the intimate cohabitation with animals that characterized every medieval milieu from palace to village. The animal encounters of medieval literature reveal their full meaning only when we recover the living animal's place within the written animal.
The grip of a certain humanism was strong in medieval Britain, as it is today: the humanism that conceives animals in diametrical opposition to humankind. Yet medieval writing was far from univocal in this regard. Latin and vernacular works abound in other ways of thinking about animals that invite the saint, the scholar, and the knight to explore how bodies and minds interpenetrate across species lines. Crane brings these other ways of thinking to light in her readings of the beast fable, the hunting treatise, the saint's life, the bestiary, and other genres. Her substantial contribution to the field of animal studies investigates how animals and people interact in culture making, how conceiving the animal is integral to conceiving the human, and how cross-species encounters transform both their animal and their human participants.
Quintus Ennius, often considered the father of Roman poetry, is best remembered for his epic poem, the Annals, a history of Rome from Aeneas until his own lifetime. Ennius represents an important bridge between Homer’s works in Greek and Virgil’s Aeneid. Jay Fisher argues that Ennius does not simply translate Homeric models into Latin, but blends Greek poetic models with Italic diction to produce a poetic hybrid. Fisher's investigation uncovers a poem that blends foreign and familiar cultural elements in order to generate layers of meaning for his Roman audience. Fisher combines modern linguistic methodologies with traditional philology in order to uncover the influence of the language of Roman ritual, kinship, and generalship on the Annals. Moreover, because these cultural practices are themselves hybrids of earlier Roman, Etruscan, and Greek cultural practices, not to mentionthe cultures of speakers of lesser-known languages such as Oscan and Umbrian, these echoes of cultural interactions also generated layers of meaning for Ennius, his ancient audience, and the modern readers of the fragments of the Annals.
We know almost nothing about the anonymous authors of Euphrosyne, Eustace, Mary of Egypt, and The Seven Sleepers, except that each was interested in reading, translating, and transmitting one of these four texts. Each of the four essays in this collection explores what those reasons might have been. None of the four contributors uses Ælfric as the exclusive lens for analysis, and each piece adopts a different theoretical or methodological approach to the text in question; in the process, the four anonymous texts are put into conversation with the Gospels, Freudian psychoanalysis, a fragmentary, fire-damaged manuscript, Old English homilies, and a novel published in 2006. In offering four new essays on the anonymous interpolations in Ælfric's Lives of Saints that take four very different approaches to the texts in question, we hope to open additional lines of inquiry into the lives of the se saints and to promote new scholarship on the anonymous hagiography of Anglo-Saxon England.
Contains two very different narratives; both are for the first time presented in an updated Latin text with an annotated English translation. An anonymous notary of King Bela of Hungary wrote a Latin Gesta Hungarorum (ca. 1200/10), a literary composition about the mythical origins of the Hungarians and their conquest of the Carpathian Basin. Anonymus tried to (re)construct the events and protagonists—including ethnic groups—of several centuries before from the names of places, rivers, and mountains of his time, assuming that these retained the memory of times past. One of his major “inventions” was the inclusion of Attila the Hun into the Hungarian royal genealogy, a feature later developed into the myth of Hun-Hungarian continuity. The Epistle to the Sorrowful Lament upon the Destruction of the Kingdom of Hungary by the Tartars of Master Roger includes an eyewitness account of the Mongol invasion in 1241–2, beginning with an analysis of the political conditions under King Bela IV and ending with the king’s return to the devastated country.
The Idea of the Literary in Medieval England
Renewed interest in aesthetics, in form, and the idea of the literary has led some scholars to announce the arrival of a “new formalism,” but the provisional histories of such a critical rebirth tend to begin well after the beginning, paying scant attention to medieval literary scholarship, much less the Middle Ages. The essays in Answerable Style: The Idea of the Literary in Medieval England offer a collective rebuke to the assumption that any such aesthetic turn can succeed without careful attention to the history and criticism of “the medieval literary.” Taking as their touchstone the influential work of Anne Middleton, whose searching explorations of the dialectical intersection of form and history in Middle English writing lie at the heart of the medievalist’s literary critical enterprise, the essays in this volume address the medieval idea of the literary, with special focus on the poetry of Chaucer, Langland, and Gower. The essays, by a notable array of medievalists, range from the “contact zones” between clerical culture and vernacular writing, to manuscript study and its effects on the modalities of “persona” and voicing, to the history of emotion as a basis for new literary ideals, to the reshapings of the genre of tragedy in response to late-medieval visions of history, and finally to the relations between poets writing in different medieval vernaculars. With this unusually broad yet thematically complementary set of essays, Answerable Style offers a set of key critical and historical reference points for questions currently preoccupying literary study.