Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular against the Sacred

By Swan, Laura | Magistra, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular against the Sacred


Swan, Laura, Magistra


Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular Against the Sacred by Barbara Newman. South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013. 415 pp., $42.00, ISBN 978-0-268-03611-9.

Our modern American "mind" allegedly values objective "truth" and "logic," that delusion gifted us by the French Enlightenment. Seeming contradictions are either "lies" or require more scientific enquiry for a resolution. The medieval world did not suffer such narrow confines.

We think of the secular as normative and the sacred as "Other." In medieval times sacred was normative and secular "other." We resist the discomfort of "not knowing," and the Holy Spirit will not be controlled!

Barbara Newman, in her (as usual) fine study of medieval literature takes on the debate of the past three decades around "exegetics" or "Robertsonianism," offering a new approach to the sacred and secular in medieval literature. With the secular as normative over which the secular must define itself, Newman calls the dialectical relationship as "crossover" as a mode of interaction. This interaction, she suggests, is a "both/and" or double judgment. …

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