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298BOOK REVIEWS his downfaU.This book is not just valuable as biography, for, unlike his predecessors , KeUy has used a careful analysis of many of John's writings and sermons to present new insights and to confirm detaUs of Chrysostom's Ufe previously considered doubtful; his comments and summaries stimulate one to turn to the originals.Those who are interested in Chrysostom or in this historical period must read this book. Gerard H. Ettunger, SJ. St.John's University Jamaica, New York Medieval Women and the Religious Life in Premodern Europe. By Patricia Ranft. (New York: Saint Martin's Press. 1996.Pp.xvi, 159. $39.95.) A hundred years ago,Lina Eckenstein pubUshed Women underMonasticism, 500-1500 (Cambridge University Press, 1896), which has remained the only avaUable survey of medieval women's reUgious life Ui the Middle Ages in EngUsh . Patricia Ranft has now attempted a similar feat, adding two centuries on either end to her survey but reducing its content to a slender 150-page volume, emphasizing repeatedly that this is a "selective" history. She announces a triple purpose: (l)"to provide an accessible survey ofthe major events and places, interpretations and persons responsible for the various types of religious societies women have formed in the past"; (2) to make avaUable the results of focused research in specific branches ofthe subject; (3) to remedy the deficit in women's reUgious history relative to that of men. Eight chapters in roughly chronological order are subdivided into brief essays of one to five pages.The principle of selection is not always clear: capsule biographies dominate some chapters; others are geographicaUy distributed; some feature varieties of reUgious life.To Ulustrate, Chapter 4,"The Fruits of the Monastic Revival," is subdivided into "New Orders" and "Other Options." "New Orders" is further subdivided into Fontevrault, the Order of the Paraclete, Prémontr é, GUbertines, Cistercians; "Other Options" consists of unlabeled paragraphs on the miUtary orders, HUdegard of Bingen, and EUsabeth of Schönau. Chapter 5,"The Appeal of the Vita Apostólica',' is subdivided into Unorthodox and Orthodox groups. The former contains a single subtitle, "Cathars and Waldensians," whUe the latter includes The Poor Ladies: Second Order of St. Francis, Dominicans, Béguines, Helfta, and Other Orthodox Groups (two paragraphs on hospital communities and penitents). The book appears to have been written at breakneck speed, as though to meet an unyielding deadline. Its extreme brevity eliminates any pretense at making up the deficit with men's history: the standard surveys of the monastic movement or of individual orders normally contain more information about reUgious women than can be found in this book. Simüarly, the episodic nature of BOOK REVIEWS299 the presentation disaUows any attempt to come to grip with the arguments of modern scholars, which embrace a broader range of categories. The idiosyncratic apportionment of references between notes and bibUography obscures their value in compUing a good Ust for future reading.There remains Ranft's initial aim of providing an accessible survey. Brevity and haste unfortunately lead to confusion, such as attributing the "new orders" of the twelfth century to the decision to mstitutionaUze eremitic groups that flourished principaUy m England .There also appears to be basic confusion between apostoUc and contemplative religion which ultimately produces the conclusion (p. 65): "Francis' disciples drew the best of aU practices, virtues and ideals from the movement into an institutional form of Ufe that was but the logical culmination of the monastic reform movement begun at Cluny."This is, alas, the sort of statement that will inevitably draw out students' highlighters and appear on their final examinations . ___ Jo Ann Kay McNamara Hunter College and the Graduate Center City University ofNew York How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story ofIreland's Heroic Role from the Fall ofRome to the Rise ofMedieval Europe. ByThomas CahiU. (NewYork: Nan A.Talese/Doubleday. 1995. Pp. x, 246. $22.95.) Why has this book been so popular?Why have readers been buying this book rather than more scholarly and more accurate histories of early medieval Ireland ? Mr. CahiU purposely distances his legend of the Irish past from more serious works which, he purports, focus on one historical period or another rather...


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