Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages

Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages

Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages

Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages

Synopsis

Studies of gender in medieval culture have tended to focus on femininity; however, the study of medieval masculinities has developed into an important area of enquiry in the last few years. This collection is the first to concentrate on the ways in which varieties of medieval masculinity intersected with concepts of holiness. Individual essays in this volume explore differing notions of holiness which had currency in the Middle Ages, understood variously as religious, saintly, sacred, pure and morally perfect. They also consider the ways in which the performance of both holiness and masculinity was affected by other categories such as monasticism, kingship, mysticism, social status, body and age.

For some men the practice of holiness embodied the masculine capacities of self-control and intellectual decision, but for others it involved identities that challenged conventional ideas of masculine autonomy. Therefore masculinity could either be a source of validation, or a matter for anxiety – an issue explored in several of the essays. Others consider holy masculinity alongside holy femininity and the ways in which both could sometimes be achieved by men and women.

Topics include sanctity and martyrdom, eunuch saints, meanings attached to the tonsure, mystical marriage, models of ideal conduct and virginity. The volume as a whole deals with a wide variety of texts and sources drawn from Byzantium, Syria, Germany, France, Anglo-Saxon and later medieval England.

Excerpt

Religion and Culture in the Middle Ages aims to explore the interface between medieval religion and culture, with as broad an understanding of those terms as possible. It puts to the forefront studies which engage with works that significantly contributed to the shaping of medieval culture. However, it also gives attention to studies dealing with works that reflect and highlight aspects of medieval culture that have been neglected in the past by scholars of the medieval disciplines. For example, devotional works and the practice they infer illuminate our understanding of the medieval subject and its culture in remarkable ways, while studies of the material space designed and inhabited by medieval subjects yield new evidence on the period and the people who shaped it and lived in it. in the larger field of religion and culture, we also want to explore further the roles played by women as authors, readers and owners of books, thereby defining them more precisely as actors in the cultural field. the series as a whole investigates the European Middle Ages, from c.500 to c. 1500. Our aim is to explore medieval religion and culture with the tools belonging to such disciplines as, among others, art history, philosophy, theology, history, musicology, the history of medicine, and literature. in particular, we would like to promote interdisciplinary studies, as we believe strongly that our modern understanding of the term applies fascinatingly well to a cultural period marked by a less tight confinement and categorization of its disciplines than the modern period. However, our only criterion is academic excellence, with the belief that the use of a large diversity of critical tools and theoretical approaches enables a deeper understanding of medieval culture. We want the series to reflect this diversity, as we believe that, as a collection of outstanding contributions, it offers a more subtle representation of a period that is marked by paradoxes and contradictions and which necessarily reflects diversity and difference, however difficult it may sometimes have proved for medieval culture to accept these notions.

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