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The early Christian writer Tertullian first applied the epithet "bride of Christ" to the uppity virgins of Carthage as a means of enforcing female obedience. Henceforth, the virgin as Christ's spouse was expected to manifest matronly modesty and due submission, hobbling virginity's ancient capacity to destabilize gender roles. In the early Middle Ages, the focus on virginity and the attendant anxiety over its possible loss reinforced the emphasis on claustration in female religious communities, while also profoundly disparaging the nonvirginal members of a given community.

With the rising importance of intentionality in determining a person's spiritual profile in the high Middle Ages, the title of bride could be applied and appropriated to laywomen who were nonvirgins as well. Such instances of democratization coincided with the rise of bridal mysticism and a progressive somatization of female spirituality. These factors helped cultivate an increasingly literal and eroticized discourse: women began to undergo mystical enactments of their union with Christ, including ecstatic consummations and vivid phantom pregnancies. Female mystics also became increasingly intimate with their confessors and other clerical confidants, who were sometimes represented as stand-ins for the celestial bridegroom. The dramatic merging of the spiritual and physical in female expressions of religiosity made church authorities fearful, an anxiety that would coalesce around the figure of the witch and her carnal induction into the Sabbath.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page
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  1. Copyright Page
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  1. Table of Contents
  2. p. ix
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-7
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  1. Chapter 1: A Match Made in Heaven: The Bride in the Early Church
  2. pp. 9-29
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  1. Chapter 2: The Church Fathers and the Embodied Bride
  2. pp. 30-61
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  1. Chapter 3: The Barbarian Queen
  2. pp. 63-105
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  1. Chapter 4: An Age of Affect, 1050–1200 (1): Consensuality and Vocation
  2. pp. 106-149
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  1. Chapter 5: An Age of Affect, 1050–1200 (2): The Conjugal Reflex
  2. pp. 150-173
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  1. Chapter 6: The Eroticized Bride of Hagiography
  2. pp. 174-232
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  1. Chapter 7: Descent into Hell
  2. pp. 233-279
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  1. Conclusion
  2. pp. 280-286
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  1. List of Abbreviations
  2. pp. 287-291
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 293-408
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 409-450
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 451-464
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. 465-477
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Additional Information

ISBN
9780812206937
Related ISBN
9780812243581
MARC Record
OCLC
794700707
Pages
472
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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