Academic journal article Magistra

The Beguine, the Angel, and the Inquisitor: The Trials of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonessart

Academic journal article Magistra

The Beguine, the Angel, and the Inquisitor: The Trials of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonessart

Article excerpt

The Beguine, the Angel, and the Inquisitor: The Trials of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonessart by Sean L. Field. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012, 407 pp., $ 40, ISBN 978-0-268-02892-3.

This is one of those histories that is a delight to delve into: detailed, excellent scholarship, and careful consideration to the nuances of the subject at hand. All the while Field maintains a readable narrative, which is not always so with scholarly tomes.

Most readers of Magistra are familiar with the name, Marguerite Porete (ca. 1250 - 1310), a beguine of Hainault condemned as a relapsed heretic and burned at the stake. We know her as the author of Mirror of Simple Souls, a brilliant work of mysticism that served as the basis of charges of heresy that were lodged against her. Mostly we had heard that very little else was known of her. In The Beguine, the Angel, and the Inquisitor, we meet not only Marguerite but her chief inquisitor, William of Paris, and her sometime defender Guiard of Cressonessart.

Field has made careful use (from his own translations) of unpublished texts, and revisits previously translated texts, challenging mistranslations and suggesting new interpretations. Like a good crime investigator, he integrates scattered and diverse sources, some of them seemingly unrelated, to make his arguments. …

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