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HUMANITIES 427 career of Margaret Wade Labarge is not the only exception to this state of affairs;but it is a particularly noteworthy exception. Labarge never pursued doctoral studies, nor did she teach full time, but she has produced six widely admired books that distil specialist research in a form accessible to the common reader. These include biographies of Louis rx of France and Henry v of England, a portrait of the household of Simon de Montfort; a study of Gascony during England's long control of the region in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries, and books on medieval travellers and medieval women. The present collection assemblesnineteen occasional papers by Labarge; who is now eighty-two. Many were given at conferences and as public lectures over the past twelve years; several are reprinted from published collections; one is a historical prospectus on women in Western culture produced for the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1967. The essays are grouped into four divisions, the first on the lives of medieval women, the fourth on medieval health care, and the middle two more loosely on~Aspects of Culture: Medieval and Modern' and 'Highways and Byways of Medieval Scholarship/ respectively. The amateur of medieval history will find in these essays gracefully presented recapitulations of subjects addressed by Labarge throughout her career. They are rich with attention to specifics that illustrate more general themes and at the same time enliven the discussion by their vivid evocation of individual careers. The more thorough the reader's acquaintance with medieval culture, the more highly prized such details wiU be: the specialist will find more interest in such particulars, which may occasionally surprise even the professionalhistorian; and less in the general observations among which they are set. Even the full-time medievalist may well not be aware, for example, of the moral controversy that raged over the proposed donation by the prostitutes of Paris of a window for the cathedralin honour of the Virgin (the bishop finally declined), or of the career of an illustrious Venetian physician who made an end being sawn between two planks by the enraged sons of a Balkan roue whose life the doctor could not save. All readers will admire the meticulous documentation of Labarge's details and the breadth of curiosity her essays attest. This is a book to dine out on. (DAVID TOWNSEND) John Carmi Parsons.and Bonnie Wheeler, editors. Medieval Mothering Garland. 1996. xviii, 384. us$8o.oo In their _introduction to this collection ofnineteen essays, th~ editors explain that the subject of the papers is not the biological fact of maternity but; rather, culturally constructed maternal activities of both men and women. Hence, the essays cover the full spectnun of mothering: from the state of 428 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 pregnancy to the status of grandmother, with additional discussion of various male figures (God and St Joseph, monks and abbots) presented as motherers in order to eliminate any bias towards gender specificity. The scholarship of the volume is generally thoroughi and the notes to many of the essays are full and extremely useful for those wishing to study the topics further. The wide range of reference includes medical treatises, visionary texts, poetry, lettersI and chronicles. Such diverse materials create, howeverI a serious problem in methodology: the levelling of sources in this way, as if they are on the same plane of reliability, is not only ahistoricaC it can be misleading. The evidential value of the Paston and Lisle letters is surely of an order different from that of Chaucer's Clerk's Tale and von Eschenbach's Parzifal. The papers do noC on the whole, speak to one another's subjects; stilt the reader can find interesting and provocative links among them. For instance, Norse fostering practices as related in the sagas take on actuality in light of the history of the Lisle daughters; 'patterns of marriage between older men and young women' (Pamela Shemgom) has relevance to the development of the cult of St Joseph not only theologically but also politically; the Paston grandmothers can be seen as fulfilling the role of the ~agingqueeni who works to establish 'concord in the kingdom' (John Carmi...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 427-428
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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